Sleep apnea increases risk of traffic accidents
A new study done at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has found that sleep apnea is linked to a higher risk of car accidents.
Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing is regularly interrupted during sleep, and accompanied with snorting and/or gasping. Because of this, many people with the condition feel tired during the day because they have not experienced restorative sleep. A common treatment is CPAP therapy, which helps to stop the throat from closing during sleep through by a pump that delivers compressed air through a mask.
This study used data from the Swedish Traffic Accident Registry and compared traffic accident rates among 1,478 people suffering from sleep apnea with a control population of 635,786 people with driver’s licenses. Over 10 years, they found 21,118 people had at least one car accident in the control population. They also found that 82 of the car accidents happened while a sleep apnea patient was driving, with 56 accidents happening five years before they were diagnosed and 26 accidents in the year after diagnosis.
Using this data, the researchers determined that sleep apnea patients were almost 2.5 times more likely to be in a car accident when compared with other drivers. The analysis also showed, however, that people who used CPAP therapy for an average of four hours a night or more showed a 70 percent reduction in the risk of car accidents.
An estimated 25 million adults in the U.S. have sleep apnea.