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Press Release

Crash risk soars among truck drivers who fail to adhere to sleep apnea treatment

March 23, 2016

Truck drivers who fail to adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are a public safety threat on U.S. roadways, according to results from the largest study of sleep apnea and crash risk among commercial motor vehicle drivers. Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine researchers Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP and Stefanos N. Kales MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM contributed to the study, which was published online March 21, 2016 in the journal Sleep.

“We found that truck drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are at dramatically greater risk of serious, preventable truck crashes, consistent with the greatly increased risk of motor vehicle crashes among automobile drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea,” said study co-author Charles A. Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Given that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and premature death are similarly increased in people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, regulatory agencies worldwide owe it to truck drivers and to the motorists who share the road with them to require objective screening, diagnostic testing, and treatment adherence monitoring for all commercial drivers.”

The findings suggest that commercial truck drivers should be regularly screened for sleep apnea and required to treat it if they have it in order to continue driving, according to Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, Chief of Occupational Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, and senior author of the study. “Mandating screening, diagnosis, and treatment would reduce large truck and bus accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries among the motoring public,” he said.

Read the complete press release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine here. Read the complete press release from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health here.

Funding for the study came from Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (NIH Award #UL1 RR 025758, financial contributions from Harvard University and its affiliated academic health care centers), from the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (Project# 12-UI-017), from the study firm, from the University of Minnesota, Morris, and from the Roadway Safety Institute (the Region 5 USDOT University Transportation Center).

“Non-Adherence with Employer-Mandated Sleep Apnea Treatment and Increased Risk of Serious Truck Crashes,” Sleep, March 7, 2016, Stephen V. Burks, Jon E. Anderson, Matthew Bombyk, Rebecca Haider, Derek Ganzhorn, Xueyang Jiao, Connor Lewis, Andrew Lexvold, Hong Liu, Jiachen Ning, Alice Toll, Jeffrey S. Hickman, Erin Mabry, Mark Berger, Atul Malhotra, Charles A. Czeisler, and Stefanos N. Kales

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