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Obstructive sleep apnea and its effect on truck drivers

Obstructive sleep apnea is one of three types of sleep apnea, the disorder that causes individuals to stop breathing periodically during sleep. OSA happens to be the most common type among truckers, an estimated 35% of whom suffer from sleep apnea. Georgia residents should know that if left undiagnosed and untreated, OSA can lead to diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

More immediately pressing is the fact that truckers with OSA will be more drowsy behind the wheel. Sleep apnea robs individuals of restorative sleep, namely deep sleep and REM sleep, causing them to wake up still drowsy even after a long time in bed. Drowsy truckers are as much as 250% more likely to get in a crash than well-rested drivers.

Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, morning headaches, depression, irritability and problems remembering things or concentrating. Those with OSA may already be dependent on medication to deal with the headaches and to help them fall asleep. Those with neck sizes greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women are more prone to develop sleep apnea as are those with a BMI of 30 or greater.

Treatment options range from mouthguards for mild OSA to the continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine for moderate or severe OSA. If these measures fail, a person may opt for surgery.

Victims of truck wrecks may be left dealing with catastrophic injuries, so they can seek compensation from the other side provided that they are less than 50% to blame for the wreck. With a lawyer's help, victims may be able to show that the trucker was suffering from undiagnosed OSA or had the condition yet did nothing to treat it. Crash investigators and medical experts might come in to assist the lawyer in finding evidence.

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