It’s no secret that there’s a link between drowsy driving and car accidents, but a new study reveals how sleep apnea specifically impacts motor vehicle safety – and we’re not gonna lie, it’s a little scary. The good news? CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy can help reduce your risk.
According to researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, sleep apnea sufferers are 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a car accident than those who don’t have this sleep disorder. While this study focused solely on Swedish drivers, the authors indicated that this number could be even higher in other countries like the United States where drowsy driving factors into 328,000 car accidents each year.
The study found that excessive daytime sleepiness, use of sleeping pills and a sleep period of five hours or less were all associated with the increased crash risk in sleep apnea patients.
Understandably, this is alarming information for the 11.6% of the U.S. population who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. But there is a silver lining. The study confirmed something that we’ve been saying along: that proper sleep apnea treatment can reduce this risk significantly.
According to the study, motor vehicle accidents fell 70% among sleep apnea patients who underwent CPAP therapy for an average of four or more hours per night.
“This study provides very strong evidence that obstructive sleep apnea patients have an increased traffic accident risk and that this risk can be modified if CPAP treatment is used adequately,” said senior author Dr. Ludger Grote.
So there you have it, sleep apnea sufferers. Not only is untreated sleep apnea associated with health conditions such as heart disease and stroke, but it can also make you a danger to yourself and others when you’re on the road. If you experience any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor and seek treatment if necessary.