About 15 years ago, the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) became all the rage in the trucking industry. Today we hardly hear about it. I hope and believe this is a testament to the fact that the industry is becoming more aware of this condition and its treatments.
For those who don’t know, OSA is a condition in which the airway collapses frequently during sleep, causing partial “awakening” during the night, resulting in accumulating sleep deprivation.
Not good conditions for a professional driver. And how difficult it used to be to diagnose. The long wait at the sleep clinic was just the first hurdle to overcome. And when I entered the room, I had to sleep all night in an unfamiliar room with wires all over my body and a stranger watching me on a monitor in a near impossible environment.
Good luck. can not sleep? Please try again in a few months.
sleep smart test
Things have gotten a lot better since then. At a recent industry event, I met SleepSmart’s Director of Domestic Sales, Daphne Montgomery. At-home testing has been available for some time, making it easier for professional drivers who are rarely home to be tested for sleep apnea. SleepSmart markets a new method recently approved by Health Canada that further simplifies the testing procedure.
“We eliminated all the time and doctor’s appointments we needed, the waiting room, and the overnight sleep lab stay,” Montgomery told me. “If you test positive for sleep apnea, it takes a lot less time to start treatment. You don’t have to work or take time off from work.”
SleepSmart’s test procedure is very simple and ideal for those who regularly sleep in their truck.
System components include a device the size of an Apple Watch, a circular sticker about a quarter the size that sticks to the sternum, and a finger sleeve. These combine to measure body position during sleep, breathing patterns and most importantly the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI), the average number of apnea events occurring per hour of sleep.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy may be the most effective option, even if tests show that you have sleep apnea. His CPAP machine today has also come a long way. Their usage can be monitored remotely and the quality of sleep received by the driver can be measured.
SleepSmart’s program provides fleet managers with aggregated reports on drivers’ CPAP usage without identifying individual drivers.
“This is private health information that only health care providers can access,” Montgomery said. “Unless you have express written consent, the programs we offer to organizations will provide quarterly aggregated data on program success. We do not disclose who is receiving treatment. It has not been discussed with the organization.”
This is important information for professional drivers who already feel like their every move is being monitored these days. Independent clinicians are there to support therapy and will not police drivers who are not using therapy effectively or not at all.
I asked Montgomery about the many CPAP alternatives on the market. There’s everything from pop-can sized “traveler” devices to wireless gadgets with tiny fans that attach to your nostrils.
“I won’t talk about other devices out there, but in the world of sleep apnea, the existing technology of CPAP providers is considered the gold standard of treatment,” she said, noting that the hoseless device I added that I doubt it.
Many years ago, when I couldn’t go to a trucking industry conference without a session on sleep apnea, I took the opportunity to get myself diagnosed with sleep apnea. I was. I went through the whole ordeal, including an overnight stay at a sleep clinic. I found out I had this condition and have been on CPAP ever since. It was life-changing therapy. Who knew I didn’t have to live my life tired all the time?
It is encouraging for drivers to have an easier and less intrusive way to get tested. If you think you might have sleep apnea, I highly recommend getting tested. And with modern methods that don’t require an overnight in the lab, or even a trip outside, there’s no excuse not to.