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Sleep disorders in the spotlight

LATENT PROBLEM: More than 40% of long-distance truck drivers suffer from sleep apnoea.
LATENT PROBLEM: More than 40% of long-distance truck drivers suffer from sleep apnoea.

AS PART of its program for TruckWeek 2012, the ATA hosted a breakfast for politicians at Parliament House last week, highlighting the dangers and prevalence of sleep disorders in Australia's truck drivers.

TruckWeek is a week-long national celebration highlighting the achievements of the trucking industry, and wrapped up on Saturday.

At the breakfast, Australian researcher Lisa Sharwood revealed that more than 40% of Australian long-distance truck drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea.

However, the Epworth sleepiness scale currently used in driver medicals only picks up 12.2%, leaving the majority of these apnoea sufferers undiagnosed and untreated.

Sleep apnoea is a condition where the soft tissues of the throat close or partially obstruct the airway while a person is asleep, preventing them from getting proper rest.

This can then lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue and poor reaction times, and can more than double their accident risk.

ATA chairman David Simon said TruckWeek was an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of this issue both within the trucking industry and with the policy makers in Parliament House.

"Sleep apnoea is a treatable condition, and many drivers wouldn't even be aware they suffer from it," Mr Simon said.

"A sensible approach to sleep apnoea testing, treatment, and management will benefit businesses by creating safer drivers.

"Drivers will benefit too, with healthier, less fatigued lives, extended driving careers, and a greater life expectancy."

The Australasian Sleep Association and the Sleep Health Foundation are also urging drivers to make sleep a priority, with fact sheets about common sleep conditions available from sleephealthfoundation.org.au.

For more information on TruckWeek visit the website.

Topics:  sleep apnoea

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