How Sleep Apnea Relates to Car Crash Risk – St. Louis Attorneys

Sleep apnea patients often suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, and have a much higher risk of getting into a car accident.

Missouri man suffering from sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that should not be ignored as it can cause a patient to stop breathing. While it may not seem immediately life threatening, it can make the life of an individual suffering from it very difficult. Apart from the other health risks it may pose, sleep apnea can also increase the risk of car accidents.

What is Sleep Apnea?

According to WebMD,

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain, and the rest of the body, may not get enough oxygen.

The problem is that most people do not realize that they are waking up multiple times throughout the night, and many people do not even know that they have sleep apnea. They may feel fatigued or not well rested, however, they don’t know why.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

  • Being a male – twice as many men as women suffer from sleep apnea
  • Age – it is more common in older adults (above 40)
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Neck circumference greater than 17 inches
  • Alcohol or sedative use
  • Narrowed airway, in those with enlarged adenoids or tonsils

Thankfully, sleep apnea is treatable. Some common treatment options available include nasal dilators, surgery, medication, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves using a special machine that helps a patient breathe during sleep.

Sleep apnea and increased risk of car accidents

In the United States, at least 25 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. There is a high incidence of sleep apnea among truck drivers in particular. This is probably one of the reasons why fatigued driving is among the leading causes of tractor trailer accidents in the United States.

Sleep apnea patients often suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, and have a much higher risk of getting into a car accident. Simply speaking, drivers with sleep apnea are usually fatigued drivers.

According to the University of British Columbia, the risk of a car accident increases significantly when the driver has sleep apnea. A study if 1,600 people revealed that sleep apnea patients are twice as likely as non-sufferers to be involved in a car crash. The researchers also quoted that they were surprised about the severity of the accidents.

It was also found that the car crashes among sleep apnea sufferers reduced by 70 percent when patients used a CPAP device for at least four hours at night.

Injured in a car accident caused by a fatigued driver?

Some experts say fatigued drivers could be as dangerous as drunk drivers. Many times, fatigued drivers fall asleep behind the wheel and cause catastrophic accidents. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a sleep apnea sufferer or a generally fatigued driver, you should get in touch with a competent St. Louis car wreck lawyer to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. Call (314) 361-4242 today for a free consultation.

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