Jul 29

As mentioned in previous posts, many states across the country are shutting down rest areas, forcing freight truckers to find alternate places to get in their legally required breaks. For sufferers of sleep disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy, being able to get rest when you need it is critical to not just their livelihood, but perhaps to literally staying alive.

While many lament the closing of rest areas, earlier this year, one state was actually suggesting more be opened, while also pushing to require sleep disorder testing for obese commercial drivers. In March, Massachusetts considered legislation aimed at building new highway rest areas so sleep-deprived drivers don’t endanger the safety of other motorists. If they do, they risk getting a ticket for driving drowsy. (The legislation proposed that violators of the new sleep rule be charged with a criminal offense “to the same extent as a drug or alcohol impaired driver." Yikes.)

In the past, one not-so-good approach to staying awake on the road was to take stimulants. But short of coffee, use of commons stimulants such as modafinil and amphetamines to treat sleep apnea or narcolepsy may not be the route you want to take because of potentially dangerous side effects.

So what else can you do? While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sits on a national recommendation to require sleep apnea screenings of obese truckers, drivers need to take precautionary measures to treat the disorder themselves to ensure they don’t fall asleep behind the wheel. You can start by watching your weight, eating healthier, exercising, resting a regular intervals, and getting screenings on your own. While you can’t prevent narcolepsy, the same advice can help.

One FMCSA-sponsored study revealed that more than 28% of commercial drivers had some form (from mild to severe) of sleep apnea. Truck drivers with sleep apnea are also seven times more likely to get involved in a highway accident. Do yourself a favor. Get screened. Don’t be a statistic.

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