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Sleep apnea could make driving more dangerous, study indicates

Dealing with sleep apnea is an experience quite a few Americans have. Some estimates put the number of American adults who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea at around 25 million.

Sleep apnea can have a variety of different negative effects on a person. One such effect is that sleep interruptions caused by sleep apnea can sometimes cause a person to suffer extreme fatigue and drowsiness during the day. Daytime drowsiness caused by sleep apnea could make performing certain tasks more difficult for a sleep apnea sufferer. Driving could be one such task. A recent study indicates that sleep apnea sufferers, generally, are more at risk of being involved in a traffic accident when behind the wheel than those without the condition.     

The study is from another country, Sweden. In the study, researchers compared the car accident rates of a group of sleep apnea sufferers with the rates of a general population control group. 

The researchers found that the likelihood of being in a traffic accident while driving was two and half times greater for the sleep apnea sufferers than it was for the general population group. 

These findings lend support to the point that sleep apnea can sometimes pose problems to its victims when it comes to some everyday tasks. 

Some other findings of the study, though, underscore a more hopeful and positive point regarding sleep apnea. This point is that sleep apnea treatments, such as CPAP treatments, can sometimes help reduce the effects the condition has on a person. Another of the things the study compared was the auto accident rates of sleep apnea sufferers who averaged at least four hours of CPAP therapy a night and sleep apnea sufferers who didn't. The former group had a 70 percent lower risk of being in a traffic accident while behind the wheel than the latter group. 

Sometimes, proper treatment allows a sleep apnea sufferer to not really suffer any major drops in their functional abilities due to their condition. However, in the more severe forms of sleep apnea, a person can find many daily tasks much more difficult even with treatment. If the effects of sleep apnea on a person's functional abilities are severe enough, the person may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Source: Medical News Today, "Sleep apnea tied to higher risk of road traffic accidents," Catharine Paddock, March 11, 2015

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