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Sleep apnea heightens truck accident risk

An estimated 35% of truckers in California and throughout the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Apnea means "without breath," and it can occur in one of two ways. In central sleep apnea, the brain may fail to send signals to the muscles that control breathing, causing a person to stop breathing. In obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, the relaxing and collapsing of the throat muscles and mouth palate cause the upper airway to be blocked.

Truckers suffer from OSA more often than from central sleep apnea. By fragmenting their sleep, OSA prevents individuals from entering into deep sleep and REM sleep. This is the kind of sleep that one needs to repair physical and mental fatigue. The consequence of this is that individuals will feel sleepy all day. Sleepiness in truckers raises the risk for an accident.

Neck size and BMI can impact a person's chances of developing sleep apnea, which is why the DoT requires truckers to have these measurements taken. Truckers may need to undergo a sleep study if their neck size is over 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women or if their BMI is 30 or greater. Truckers should also be on the lookout for OSA symptoms like loud snoring, morning headaches, irritability, depression, trouble concentrating, poor memory and high blood pressure.

If treated, OSA poses no problem for truckers. Truckers can grow drowsy, though, simply by overworking themselves. When they cause a crash through their own fault, those who are injured may want to visit a Costa Mesa truck accident injury compensation law firm. A lawyer may help them pursue a claim against the trucking company in order to be reimbursed for their medical bills and other losses. Third-party medical experts and crash investigators might come in to build up the case.

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