“Due to the sleeplessness and lack of ability to concentrate that are associated with apnea, sufferers are six times more likely to die in a car accident.” Six times. That’s a pretty alarming margin. This quote from Sleep Disordered Guide continues, stating that, “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that drowsy driving is responsible for, at the very least, 100,000 car accidents, 40,000 injuries, and 1,550 deaths per year.” (You can read that article here.)
Sleep apnea sufferers are six times more likely to die in a car accident.
Let’s consider this for a moment. There are an estimated 18 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea. Out of those 18 million, approximately 80% are undiagnosed, and therefore untreated cases. Out of the 20% who are diagnosed, many of them are non-compliant with their prescribed therapy. Those individuals with untreated sleep apnea are all at a high risk for motor vehicle accidents. That’s a very scary thought.
When it comes to all the necessary brain functions for safe driving–good judgement, quick reaction time, and ability to concentrate–untreated sleep apnea is not your friend. The more sleep deprived we are, the more these functions suffer. According to an article in the Huffington post, “A study shows that moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication. After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1 percent.” (You can read that article here.) Basically, getting behind the wheel when you’re sleep deprived is pretty similar to getting behind the wheel completely intoxicated.
If complications from untreated sleep apnea weren’t already bad enough–increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, depression, and more–this consideration should give anyone ignoring sleep apnea symptoms pause. If you or a loved one is showing signs of sleep apnea, talk to a health care professional about testing today. In many cases, testing for sleep apnea can be done at home, from the comfort of your own bed. It’s easy, fast, and convenient. And treatment is no longer limited to CPAP therapy–there are options! If you’ve failed compliance with CPAP therapy, don’t continue to ignore treatment for your sleep apnea. Learn about oral device therapy and other options that may work better for you. Whatever you do, don’t ignore sleep apnea. Complications and risk factors increase as sleep apnea worsens. Talk to a health care professional now.
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