When multi-ton 18-wheel trucks are hurtling down the highway, it’s safe to say that drowsy driving becomes a legitimate fear. Professional trucking organizations are not oblivious to these concerns, but they have occasionally clashed with regulatory bodies seeking to mandate testing for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
According to alltruckjobs.com, “the U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT, does not require sleep apnea testing for truck drivers. However, DOT does require that truck drivers get a medical examination to hold a CDL [commercial driver’s license]. The medical examiner is the one who decides if the driver needs sleep apnea testing.”
The DOT goes on to say that it’s up to the medical examiner to determine whether or not a particular medical condition will interfere with driving. A diagnosis of moderate to severe sleep apnea does send up a red flag, and drivers are considered unsafe until they are treated for sleep apnea.
Part of the long-running dialogue between truckers’ unions and regulators concerns the time, effort, and cost involved with procuring prescriptions, as well as the discomfort associated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. For long-haul truckers who periodically sleep in the cab of their rigs, CPAP can be inconvenient, particularly in light of space and/or power limitations.
The good news is that non-CPAP solutions exist, particularly for mild to moderate OSA sufferers. One such alternative that requires no prescription is a positional sleep therapy device. For example, inventions such as the slumberBUMP comfortably keep sleepers on their side which puts the airway in a better position. Specifically, the side position reduces snoring, and in many cases significantly reduces the severity of OSA—whether by itself or in conjunction with other therapies.
“Yet another treatment alternative is the oral appliance,” says Shad Morris, D.M.D., owner of Premier Sleep Solutions, St. George, Utah. “Also known as mandibular advancement devices, oral appliances require no power and tend to be considerably more comfortable than CPAP masks. CPAP is effective, but compliance can be a problem. Oral appliances are effective for mild to moderate OSA and typically have higher compliance rates than CPAP.”