Waking up to sleep apnoea

BROKEN SLEEP: Research has revealed that more than four in 10 Australian truck drivers suffer from a sleep disorder.
BROKEN SLEEP: Research has revealed that more than four in 10 Australian truck drivers suffer from a sleep disorder.

AT THE Australian Trucking Convention in May, Australian researcher Lisa Sharwood revealed that more than four in 10 Australian long distance truck drivers suffer from a sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

However, most of these drivers don't know it, and it could be threatening their own lives.

Sleep apnoea is where the soft tissues of the throat close your airway during sleep, stopping normal breathing.

This reduces blood oxygen and prevents restful sleep.

If you snore heavily, occasionally wake choking or gasping and often suffer from daytime sleepiness, you may have sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is usually not detected in truck driver medicals, even though the ATA has pushed for better screening.

Lisa's research is part of a major study that aims to find out how many drivers suffer from sleep disorders and sleepiness.

She talked to more than 500 drivers at truck stops in NSW and WA who were sent home with a breathing monitor.

The monitor measured the number of times their airway closed during sleep.

Only drivers who had not had a recent crash were included in this group.

Your chances of having sleep apnoea are increased if you are a man, middle aged or carrying a bit of extra weight.

Lisa's study found that long distance truckies tend to be all three, so if you are a bad snorer and get tired during the day, it's worth talking to your GP.

Or ask your partner if there are long pauses in your breathing while you are asleep.

One of the worst cases of sleep apnoea picked up in the study was a 54-year-old driver who suffered 102 apnoeas, or instances where his breathing stopped, per hour.

After receiving treatment, his message for you is not to hesitate.

"It's only going to improve your life," he said.

David Simon, chairman of the ATA, has urged trucking businesses to support their drivers to get tested and treated.

"In my own business, Simon National Carriers, we have had a significant number of drivers tested and found to have sleep apnoea over the years," David said.

"A sensible approach to testing, treatment and management has led to benefits to our business by creating safer drivers.

"Most importantly, our drivers have benefited, with healthier, less fatigued lives, extended driving careers and greater life expectancy."

Topics:  australian trucking association

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