Obstructive Sleep Apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a condition which is scary for lorry drivers. This is for 2 reasons:
- Drivers are scared to declare it as they will lose their licence
- It can be very dangerous
So who is at risk of sleep apnoea? What are the DVLA rules? How can we treat or prevent OSAS?
What is obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome?
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is when the soft tissue of the neck stop you from being able to breath at night. Everyone’s structures in the neck relax when we go to sleep. However, this becomes a problem when they block your airway. Hence stopping you from breathing and then disturbing your quality of sleep.
Therefore, you could have a full night but wake up feeling tired. Furthermore, leading to an accident, due to falling asleep at the wheel.
Who is at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome?
There are many risk factors. However, the most common affecting lorry drivers are:
- Male gender
- Neck circumference greater than 40.6 cm
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
Due to the lifestyle, eating habits and the lack of exercise associated with the job lorry drivers are very much prone to this.
How do we diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea?
If you are feeling very tired during the day, it is wise to see your GP. They can do a quick risk calculation. This is called the STOPBANG tool.
S – Snoring loudly enough to be heard through closed doors
T – Feeling tired or sleepy throughout the day
O – Has someone observed you stop breathing when asleep
P – Are you on blood pressure tablets
B – Is your BMI over 35
A – Age above 50
N – Neck circumference >40cm
G – Gender – Male
Each answer which is a yes scores 1.
Moreover, a score of 3 or more could prompt your doctor to refer you for a sleep study. This is where you are observed whilst being asleep to see how many times you stop breathing in the night.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
There is treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. It is a called a CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This is a mask you wear. It has a tight seal around your mouth and nose. The mask pushes air down in order to keep the airway open when you are sleeping at night. You must wear this daily!
The DVLA Guidance for lorry drivers
There are 2 guidance when it comes to obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome for lorry drivers.
- Suspected obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome
- Diagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome
Detailed guidance and how to fill forms the DVLA may send you are found on the Sleep apnoea trust website.
You must not drive. However, you can only resume driving if your day time sleepiness is resolved. If this takes over 3 months you must let the DVLA know.
If you get diagnosed with he condition. You must not drive and must notify DVLA.
You can resume driving if the following conditions are met:
- The condition is controlled
- Your sleepiness is improved
- You continue to use the mask whenever you sleep
- You have a yearly follow up as a bare minimum
The DVLA will need confirmation from your specialist clinic. They get their information from the machine you use. It tells them how long you use it for and how many times you stop breathing in the night.
Prevention of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea syndrome
You can prevent OSAS by trying to mitigate the risk factors we mentioned above. This can be from ensuring you have regular breaks and do exercise. Furthermore, having a balanced diet and controlling your weight will help the most.
In conclusion, Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is a very dangerous condition. Therefore, if you are feeling tired all the time. You must get this checked before it becomes an issue and you end up falling asleep on the wheel. However, you can still drive as long as the condition is controlled.
Ultimately, It all starts with your HGV medical.
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