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One of the most important aspects of operating a motor vehicle safely is keeping your eyes on the road and paying attention to everything that’s going on around you. Losing your concentration for even a fraction of a second while on the road can lead to a terrible catastrophe. When you lose focus, you also lose the ability to react quickly and correctly to potential obstacles during the act of driving.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that can cause chronic sleeplessness that leads to fatigue when you need to be alert and awake, making you a more dangerous driver and raising the chance that you may harm yourself or someone else in an accident.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax, causing vibrations which result in obstructed airways, snoring and even the cessation of regular breathing as you sleep. In the worst cases, sleep apnea obstructs the airways so badly that you actually stop breathing for up to a few minutes at a time.
This cycle of sleeping, snoring and asphyxiation causes sufferers to wake up several times a night as their body struggles to fall into and remain in a restful REM sleep. Although sleep apnea may sound like a fancy description for snoring, it can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack and even psychological effects like depression and anxiety. More importantly, a chronic lack of sleep causes you to become less alert and slower to respond to waking life.
Being less alert and responding slower to visual cues results in a lag of reaction time when you’re behind the wheel. Instead of stopping as quickly as our reflexes would normally allow, we take an extra half second to pump the brakes, which can cause you to travel an extra 30 feet or so if you’re traveling at 50 mph.
Sleeplessness has been compared to the effects of alcohol, especially when it comes to driving. Some doctors consider five hours or less of sleep for a week straight or going an entire day without sleep to be the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.1, which is above the legal limit in many jurisdictions.
Considering that drunk driving is such a big cause of death and injury while driving, if your sleep apnea is causing you to get a reduced amount of sleep on a daily basis, it’s similar to driving while legally drunk. Visit a doctor who specializes in the issue to deal with your sleep apnea as soon as you’re able.
Because sleep disrupts the normal sleep pattern, it can make you feel tired, slow your reaction time, and lead to confused thinking and memory loss. If you’re a driver, lack of enough sleep can be disastrous. That’s why its important to seek sleep apnea treatment as soon as possible. If you’re a Houston resident, we can help.
At Houston Sinus & Allergy, we assess patients for the severity of their condition, and determine a treatment that will allow for a restful sleep. Learn about the sleep apnea treatments we provide that have helped countless patients with sleep apnea, or book an assessment with our experienced ENT, Dr. Nguyen, and start sleeping well again.