A startling new study reveals just how prevalent sleep apnea may be in the professional truck-driving world.
Australian researchers found that 41 percent of truck drivers in Australia have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder where a person may stop breathing on and off throughout the night, leading to daytime sleepiness because of the disturbed sleep.
The study, published in the journal SLEEP included 517 long-distance truck drivers in Australia. Just 4.4 percent said that they had been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, though when the researchers tested them, 41 percent had the sleep disorder, according to the study.
In addition, the researchers found that 49 percent of the truck drivers smoke cigarettes, 50 percent are obese and 36 percent are overweight.
"Sleep apnea remains a significant and unrecognized problem in CMV drivers, who we found to have multiple health risks," the researchers wrote in the study. "Objective testing for this sleep disorder needs to be considered, as symptom reports and self-identification appear insufficient to accurately identify those at risk."
It's important to note that this finding was only in Australian truck drivers, and the numbers may not be the same in the United States. However, sleep apnea is known to be a pervasive health condition among truck drivers in America, too, with NPR reporting that up to one third of truck drivers may have sleep apnea.
Fatigue by transportation workers was the subject of a National Sleep Foundation poll released earlier this year. That poll showed that about one-fourth of train operators and pilots have experienced fatigue at least once a week that was strong enough to affect how they did their jobs.
The same poll showed that the fatigue led to a "near miss" at work for 11 percent of pilots, 14 percent of truck drivers and 18 percent of train operators, HuffPost earlier reported.
Recently, Truck News reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will likely start screening truck drivers for sleep apnea if they have a body mass index of 35 or over. (Someone with a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese).
For reference, Truckers News reported that a 6-foot-tall driver who weighs 258 pounds has a BMI of 35.
"Age, neck size, crash history, gender and hypertension will come into play, but alone, the 35 BMI driver will be recommended to go for an initial screening, Jack Vansteenburg, assistant administrator and chief safety officer of the FMCSA, said at a meeting, as reported by Truck News.