Study reveals sleepiness and performance impairment in commercial drivers

August 15, 2006

Truck drivers who have severe sleep apnea or who sleep less than five hours each night while at home are more likely to suffer from sleepiness, performance impairment and decreased task vigilance while behind the wheel.

The results of this large study of commercial truck drivers appear in the second issue for August 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

Allan L. Pack, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and six associates tested 247 commercial drivers at high risk for sleep apnea and 159 at lower risk for sleep impairment. They evaluated the role of short sleep duration at home over one week in 340 drivers, with 55 sleeping less than five hours. Of the 406 drivers examined for sleep apnea, 118 had mild to moderate forms of the disease, and 28 had severe sleep apnea.

"In the United States, approximately 5,600 people are killed annually in crashes involving commercial trucks," said Dr. Pack. "Falling asleep while driving is an important factor in serious crashes involving commercial vehicles, prompting the question, why?" According to the authors, the two culprits are chronically insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea.

The researchers defined mild to moderate sleep apnea as "from 5 to less than 30 temporary breathing pauses per hour of sleep," a process that decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Severe sleep apnea, on the other hand, involves more than 30 breathing pauses per hour.

However, the investigators also found that 77 percent of those with mild sleep apnea and 56 percent of with moderate sleep apnea did not have what could be termed "pathologic sleepiness" as a result of their problem.

The authors used the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to assess subjective sleepiness, the Multiple Sleep Latency Test to objectively determine the driver's propensity to fall asleep, and the Psychomotor Vigilance Task to assess behavioral alertness and define vigilance lapses. These tests were administered in addition to a normal sleep test (polysomnography) to measure breathing pauses and movement disorders in the sleep laboratory.

"In this study, we showed that both subjective and objective sleepiness, as well as performance impairments are common in our sample of commercial driver's license holders," said Dr. Pack. "Our analyses reveal that chronic short sleep duration is a risk factor for subjective sleepiness, objectively measured sleepiness and performance impairments. The results for sleep apnea are less clear."

The percentage of drivers with two or three performance impairments among those with less than 5 hours of sleep was 49.5 percent.

Of the 406 drivers tested, 93.3 percent were male and were over 45 years old. At the time of the study, 81.6 percent were employed as drivers of a commercial vehicle. All participants had a commercial driver's license.

"When we examined definitions of impairment for Psychomotor Vigilance Task Performance lapses and Divided Attention Driving Task tracking error based on data comparing results with those produced by alcohol intoxication, we found that slightly over 29 percent for lapses and almost 37 percent for mean tracking error had performance decrements compared to that induced in control subjects, albeit in different populations, after alcohol intoxication," said Dr. Pack.

The authors noted that these results should encourage the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reduce sleepiness and potential crash risk in commercial drivers. They suggest that the agency should develop plans to implement ways of identifying "sleep-impaired" drivers through objective testing, to identify and treat individuals with severe sleep apnea and to monitor their adherence to therapy, and to promote increased sleep duration among commercial drivers.
-end-
Contact:
Allan I. Pack
M.B., Ph.D., Ch.B.
125 South 31st Street, Suit 2100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3403
Phone: (215) 746-4806
E-mail: pack@mail.med.upenn.edu

American Thoracic Society

Related Sleep Apnea Articles from Brightsurf:

Sleep apnea may be risk factor for COVID-19
The question of sleep apnea as the risk factor for COVID-19 arose in a study conducted by the Turku University Hospital and the University of Turku on patients of the first wave of the pandemic.

Untreated sleep apnea is associated with flu hospitalization
As we approach flu season, adults with obstructive sleep apnea may want to take extra precautions.

Losing tongue fat improves sleep apnea
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the effect of weight loss on the upper airway in obese patients, researchers found that reducing tongue fat is a primary factor in lessening the severity of OSA.

More cancer cases among women with sleep apnea
Women with severe sleep apnea appear to be at an elevated risk of getting cancer, a study shows.

New evidence on the association of shortened sleep time and obstructive sleep apnea with sleepiness and cardiometabolic risk factors
A new study in the journal CHEST® may change the way we think about sleep disorders.

Synthetic cannabis-like drug reduces sleep apnea
A synthetic cannabis-like drug in a pill reduced apnea and daytime sleepiness in the first large multi-site study of a drug for apnea.

Inflammation may precede sleep apnea, could be treatment target
Inflammation is traditionally thought of as a symptom of sleep apnea, but it might actually precede the disorder, potentially opening the door for new ways to treat and predict sleep apnea, according to researchers.

Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan
The number of people with obstructive sleep apnea has steadily increased over the past two decades.

Sleep apnea and insomnia combination linked with depression
A new study found that men with sleep apnea and insomnia have a higher prevalence and severity of depressive symptoms than men with sleep apnea or insomnia alone.

Anti-nausea drug could help treat sleep apnea
An old pharmaceutical product may be a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research presented today by University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University scientists at the SLEEP 2017 annual meeting in Boston.

Read More: Sleep Apnea News and Sleep Apnea Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.