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Sleep Apnea’s Effect on Truck Drivers

September 7, 2017

Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep condition that prevents people from getting a full night’s rest. Sleep apnea causes your breathing to temporarily stop in the middle of the night, causing you to wake up momentarily before falling back asleep. Some individuals with sleep apnea may wake up several times in the night and never even realize it. This can make it extremely challenging to fall into a deep and restorative sleeping pattern. While only about two percent of the American population suffers from sleep apnea, roughly a third of commercial truck drivers suffer from this sleep condition.

Sleep apnea is problematic (and can cause truck accidents) because individuals with this sleep disorder often are more tired or may even fall asleep during the day from exhaustion. Recently, President Trump rejected legislation that would have required truck drivers to pass sleeping exams before getting a position as a truck driver. Falling asleep at the wheel greatly increases the risk of a truck accident, and yet, currently it is only the responsibility of drivers and companies to remain vigilant. If you need to contact a Denver truck accident lawyer, contact the attorneys at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm.


According to the Mayo Clinic, truck driver sleep apnea law applies to all truck drivers and is a sleep disorder where an individual’s breathing will stop and start. Loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, dry mouth, and a headache are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. This sleep disorder can also disrupt your sleeping pattern, leading to a lack of sleep or a lack of deep sleep. Over time, this can develop into insomnia or hypersomnia, which is a condition characterized by excessive daytime tiredness and sleepiness.


Sleep apnea can have a dramatic effect on your driving ability. Since this sleep disorder disrupts your regular sleeping pattern, it can make you drowsy and tired when you get behind the wheel. Lack of sleep is a common cause of distracted driving accidents. For someone with sleep apnea, it can be more difficult to stay awake, focus your gaze on the road, and can also slow down your overall reaction time.

Just because sleep apnea doesn’t make you completely fall asleep at the wheel doesn’t mean that it doesn’t increase your risk of an auto accident. Any level of sleep deprivation can degrade your ability to focus, think, and make safe decisions when driving.


At first glance, it may not initially make sense that truck drivers are more prone to this sleep disorder than your average citizen. However, it helps to understand the various risk factors that can increase the likelihood of someone experiencing sleep apnea. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Obesity.
  • Male gender.
  • Oversized uvula, tongue, or tonsils.
  • Smoking.
  • Over 40 years of age.
  • Larger neck circumference.

Because driving commercial trucks is a primarily sedentary job, truck drivers are at a greater risk of obesity. Additionally, this risk is further complicated since their diets often consist of meals eaten on the road that may be higher in salt and fat. While every case is individual and unique, these could be important factors in pinpointing the root cause of this problem.


Being diagnosed with sleep apnea does not mean that you can never drive again. Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are no restrictions on driving for someone with sleep apnea; however, it is recommended that they do not operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), as a commercial truck.

However, sleep apnea is a treatable medical condition, which means that most individuals can safely return to the road following successful treatment. Currently, there are no federal laws dictating the actions of commercial drivers. Laws regulating one’s ability to drive a commercial vehicle vary depending on the state.


While federal regulations may be currently up in the air, many trucking companies are paying the medical costs associated with screening truckers for various sleep disorders. A single sleep disorder test is expensive, especially if a trucker has to pay out of pocket, which is why it’s so important that trucking companies get involved. Accidents could be prevented and lives could be saved if more trucks were aware of the effects of sleep apnea.


No sleep disorder should be taken lightly. Sleep apnea, in particular, can have a range of symptoms and effects, including difficulty breathing, headaches, and insomnia. It can also disrupt your regular sleeping pattern, which can have a wide range of adverse health effects. A good night’s sleep affects your weight, blood pressure, mental functioning, and overall mood. No one should be operating a commercial truck (or any motor vehicle) under these adverse health conditions.

However, even with sleep testing and precautions, truck accidents still happen. If you or a loved one has been injured or involved in a truck accident, contact the experienced team of Denver truck accident attorneys at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm today. With our years of experience, dedication, and expertise, we’re here to help put you on the road to recovery. Contact us for more information.

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The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm has been fighting for justice for over 12 years. We’re here to stand with you in your quest for fair and full compensation when you’ve been injured in an accident. We have recovered tens of millions of dollars in personal injury settlements and verdicts and have helped thousands of people get back on their feet after experiencing serious injuries.

Each of the attorneys at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm specializes in personal injury accidents. All of our attorneys offer a hands-on approach to their cases and will aggressively fight in our quest for compensation. Feel confident that you are in the right hands with the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm.