Sleep Disorder and Driving

“When Sam would struggle to breathe at night, it really worried me,” says Sam’s wife about his sleep disorder. “He would even doze off while driving, which really scared me.”

A researcher in Australia validates her worries. “It’s not the same as if you are drunk at the wheel where your reactions may be slowed,” says Dr. Ashleigh Filtness of the Monash University Accident Research Centre. “If you’ve actually fallen asleep at the wheel then you are unresponsive . . . you’re not going to brake at all.”

Sam suffered from sleep apnea, a condition which leaves the body without oxygen for extended periods of time during the hours of sleep. When a person with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) falls asleep, the back of the throat and the tongue relax. These relaxed tissues vibrate as air passes, making the all-too familiar snoring sound. If allowed to continue, the repetitive vibration will cause the airway to swell, further obstructing an already narrow opening. Often, breathing will stop for a number of seconds, causing blood pressure to rise, and interrupting sleep.

According to a recent study of drowsy and distracted driving, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, dozing off at the wheel is a major cause of car accidents in our nation.

People with OSA have a higher risk of death than the normal population. The price they pay includes a potentially crippling deterioration in daily function, an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke, depression, and death either from accidents or in their sleep. Daytime grogginess can put people with sleep apnea at increased risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents.

The solution to OSA—and the health and safety problems that accompany it—can be simple in most cases. A small oral appliance, fitted by a trained dentist, is a painless and convenient solution to OSA. The appliance is similar to a sports mouth guard, and is largely non-invasive. It works by repositioning and stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue and in most cases prevents the soft tissue from relaxing into the airway.

Dr. Reed is a dentist trained to diagnose and administer oral appliances. He also works with medical professionals who diagnose sleep-disordered breathing. The dental device treatment is reversible and works in conjunction with other OSA therapies, if need be. Dr. Reed and his staff are committed to successful treatment. Progress is monitored carefully since each patient has a different airway, and requires slight modifications to fit the bone and teeth structure.

Sleep Apnea is Often Accompanied By:

  • According to the Federal Department of Transportation, 200,000 reported automobile accidents each year are sleep related, and 1/3 of all trucking accidents are sleep-related.
  • 37% of drivers report falling asleep at the wheel at some point during their driving career, and 13% admit to falling asleep at the wheel once a month, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • According to the same study, 60% of drivers report falling asleep while driving on a highway at 55 mph or higher.

“Within the first month of using the dental appliance I noticed a huge difference in my energy levels and quality of life!” he says. “My wife is so happy because I don’t fall asleep immediately after dinner,” he continues. “We can actually enjoy spending some time together.” Oral Appliance therapy is covered by most medical insurances and Medicare.

Patients with snoring and symptoms of sleep illness should contact Dr. Reed at (720) 504-3633 to schedule a consultation.  Dr. Reed works closely with primary care physicians to align treatment with other conditions.

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2 thoughts on “Sleep Disorder and Driving

  1. Gary L.

    I always wondered why family members would drive for awhile then have the need to sleep. I know more now thanks to you. ? you have been a great help/

    Reply
  2. Reina M.

    Sleep and driving isn’t something that you should be doing. If you have a slept disorder then you should not take chances and drive. Get checked out and drive safe.

    Reply

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