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Bus, Truck Drivers May Downplay Sleep Troubles
Date:9/5/2012

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Commercial drivers may understate their sleep apnea symptoms because they're afraid they will lose their license, a new study says.

People with sleep apnea experience frequent disruptions to their breathing during sleep, leaving them with headaches, drowsiness and sometimes depression during the day. Sleep apnea is a well-established risk factor for traffic crashes, and commercial drivers could lose their license if their sleep apnea is believed to compromise their ability to perform their jobs safely.

In this study, researchers compared two groups of sleep apnea patients -- 37 drivers of commercial vehicles, such as buses, taxis and trucks, with a control group of 74 people who didn't drive for a living.

At the start of the study, all participants had a similar rate of sleep disturbances. But commercial drivers reported an average score of 8.1 on a sleepiness scale, compared with an average of 11 reported by those in the control group. The higher the number, the greater a person's level of daytime sleepiness.

All participants were checked again after six months of treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a device that delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the upper airway open during sleep and prevent sleep apnea. The commercial drivers again reported fewer symptoms, obtaining an average sleepiness score of 4.8, compared with 7.7 for those in the control group.

The researchers also found that the commercial drivers received less treatment (only receiving CPAP for an average of 75 percent of days, compared with 83 percent for those in the control group), and also had more unscheduled visits to a sleep clinic. These findings suggest that the commercial drivers were struggling with their symptoms.

The lower levels of daytime sleepiness reported by commercial drivers indicate that they're under-scoring these levels in order to keep their licens
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