Untreated Sleep Apnea can be Deadly when Driving

sleep apnea deadly when drivingPoway and Rancho Bernardo, CA

You probably know about some of the risks associated with driving. Speeding, being under the influence of alcohol, and bad weather all can contribute to automobile accidents… as can driving while drowsy. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, about 5,000 people died in 2015 alone in vehicular crashes where sleepiness or drowsy driving played a role. You may have seen those digital billboards on the highways in your area warning about the dangers of driving while drowsy, but what these warnings don’t say is that your fatigue may be caused by a sleep breathing disorder like obstructive sleep apnea.

Drowsy driving can be deadly

According to a report by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, 795 people were killed in 2017 in vehicular accidents where drowsy driving or even falling asleep at the wheel played a role. These crashes are most likely to occur between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., often involve a single individual driving by themselves with no passengers, and occur more on either rural roads or highways.

What causes drowsy driving?

Feeling sleepy behind the wheel could stem from sleep deprivation, jet lag, working overnight shifts, or as a side effect of certain medications. However, many Americans are sleep deprived and never realize it because they suffer from sleep apnea. This is a serious sleep breathing disorder that occurs when the airway becomes obstructed while sleeping. Airway obstruction can make it more difficult to breathe, or interrupt airflow altogether. These obstructions can occur due to a collapse of soft tissue in the throat, swollen tonsils or adenoids, or if the tongue slides back into the airway. Whatever the cause, when a sleep apnea attack occurs, your brain sends signals to the body that airflow has been disrupted. In order to resume normal breathing, your brain has to come out of sleep—even if you may never consciously wake up, this disrupts the sleep cycle and the natural restoration to your mind and body that occur during the deepest stages of sleep.

Sleep apnea is more common than you may think. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. The sleep breathing disorder can affect men or women, and people of all ages including young children. Failing to seek treatment for sleep apnea only will worsen the problem. Untreated sleep apnea also significantly raises the risk factor for many chronic, potentially life-threatening ailments including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cognitive decline, and even certain forms of cancer.

If you have sleep apnea, you need to be mindful of getting behind the wheel

As mentioned above, sleep apnea only will get more severe if not treated. A person with an advanced case of sleep apnea may experience hundreds of airway obstructions per hour while sleeping, disrupting the sleep cycle each time. If this is happening to you, just imagine the effect that has on your ability to get quality rest!

Luckily, you can get help for your sleep apnea from a qualified sleep apnea dentist in Poway like Dr. Nicol Cook. Dr. Cook has the training to identify a sleep breathing disorder by conducting an airway evaluation. From there, we can provide relief, preferably through the use of oral appliance therapy. This entails providing the patient with a customized oral appliance. When worn, the oral appliance keeps the lower jaw forward in an ideal position while preventing the tongue from blocking the airway, preventing the obstructions that cause sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Poway

If you have untreated sleep apnea and drive, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk every time you get behind the wheel. Seek help for your sleep apnea today. Schedule your appointment today by calling (858) 673-0141 or contact Smiles by Dr. Cook today. We welcome patients of Poway and Rancho Bernardo, California.

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