One out of 25 adults report dozing off at the wheel in the past month, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency estimates that sleepy drivers cause 83,000 crashes, 37,000 injury crashes, and more than 800 deaths in an average year. Among the top reasons for drowsy driving is sleep apnea.
People who snore or who sleep six or fewer hours most nights are most likely to report falling asleep while driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disrupted sleep pattern caused by OSA results in many health problems, including daytime drowsiness.
Learn the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Ideally, you should refrain from driving if you feel sleepy, but this isn’t always possible. Recognize the signs of sleepy driving:
- Drifting from your lane
- Missing an exit
- Frequent blinking or yawning
- Hitting a rumble strip along the shoulder of the road
Two often-repeated remedies for drowsy driving include cranking the car windows open for some bracing fresh air or turning on music and singing. However, the NHTSA says these are not effective.
How to Prevent Sleepy Driving
The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to treat the underlying cause. For those with chronic (long-term) daytime sleepiness, the solution is complicated, and a proper diagnosis is required. Daytime sleepiness has many causes, including narcolepsy and chronic insomnia, so it’s important to determine whether sleep apnea is to blame. Contact our sleep medicine practice for testing. We will measure a number of biometric markers, including how deeply you are breathing and the quality of your sleep cycle.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Treatment for sleep apnea may include use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device while you sleep. It pumps pressurized air into your nose and mouth using a hose and mask. While CPAP is considered the most effective therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, it is not universally tolerated.
Another highly effective option for many patients is oral appliance therapy. OAT, which looks like a mouthguard, repositions the tongue, jaw, or both to keep the airway open. Depending on the patient, it can be used with or without CPAP.
Talk to our sleep medicine doctor in Glen Burnie, MD to learn the best way to treat sleep apnea and stay safer on the road.