Delaying treatment of obstructive sleep apnea can affect your daily life. Impaired breathing leads to difficulty sleeping, which leads to daytime sleepiness. However, not treating your sleep apnea can result in disastrous consequences. According to a recent study, commercial drivers who failed to properly manage their obstructive sleep apnea were more likely to cause truck crashes.

Untreated Sleep Apnea and Truck Crashes

The recent research is considered the largest study related to obstructive sleep apnea and crash risk among drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Scientists gathered 1,613 truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea, and an equal number who do not (the control group), to participate in the study. Their hope was to find out how well truck drivers with sleep apnea performed on the road—when they consistently used treatment.

The truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea were prescribed positive airway pressure therapy, otherwise known as PAP therapy. The researchers decided to give the drivers an automatic-adjusting machine that could be used at home or in the truck sleeper berth while on the road. The drivers who consistently followed through with the treatment performed just as well on the road as the control group. However, the rate of preventable truck crashes was five times higher among those who did not actively use their PAP therapy.

A common symptom of untreated sleep apnea is daytime sleepiness. This could be the cause of the rise in preventable truck crashes among drivers with sleep apnea.

Consequences of Neglected Treatment

“This study emphasizes that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is a pervasive threat to transportation safety,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, who was not a part of the study.

Dr. Watson is not the only one who feels this way. Schneider, the North American trucking firm that researchers used to gather data for the study, terminated the drivers who did not adhere to sleep apnea treatments. However, they seem to be one of the few companies actively monitoring truck drivers with sleep apnea. Most trucking firms are not required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to institute mandatory sleep apnea screening. This is something medical experts are recommending needs to be changed.