Driver fatigue is one of the main causes of accidents in Australia. Sleep apnea is one of the most insidious sleep disorders, where the throat closes partially or fully during sleep and often triggers people to wake many times over a night. People often don’t realise that they have sleep apnea initially, but simply feel tired and experience some of the symptoms of the disorder including afternoon tiredness and lack of focus.
DRIVER FATIGUE IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
Some of the risks of sleep apnea include driver fatigue. In fact, drivers that suffer from sleep apnea have a range of risks when driving including a risk of falling asleep at the wheel and reduced reaction times when they face unexpected issues. This can make them more likely to crash into other vehicles or to have single car incidents.
WHEN IS IT MORE LIKELY?
Sleep apnea can occur at any time but most sufferers have a natural dip in energy in the middle of the afternoon as the body’s circadian rhythms attempt to send the person to sleep to catch up on the missed rest. Additionally, in the middle and late afternoon, the sun is often low in the sky and this can affect overall visibility on the road, further increasing the risk of a crash.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I AM, OR SOMEONE I KNOW, IS AT RISK?
While the only way you can definitely tell if you have sleep apnea is by having a sleep study with a doctor, there are some signs that can be observed at home including chronic and loud snoring, as well as waking up tired even when you allow yourself to sleep until you naturally wake up (such as on the weekend). Luckily, there are some easy ways to treat sleep apnea, including using a CPAP machine (with CPAP mask) or a BPAP machine as you sleep, which gently pushes air into the mouth and nose helping people with sleep apnea to stay asleep and get better quality sleep throughout the night.
If you are worried that you, or a loved one, may have sleep apnea you should make an appointment to see your doctor and get a referral for a sleep study. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea there are some easy and effective treatments to help relieve your fatigue and allow you to perform at your best.