Summer Travel Alert: Drowsy Driving Can Be as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Drowsy Driving

As you get ready to hit the road this summer to enjoy your favorite vacation spots, be aware that drowsy driving can lead to serious consequences for you, your family and others on the road. There are many reasons you can become drowsy when driving, the most important of which is lack of proper sleep. It has been reported by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) that drivers are 15 times more likely to be involved in a deadly motor vehicle accident when they have excessive daytime sleepiness, a common symptom of sleep apnea.

AADSM further states that 12-18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and snoring, with millions more going undiagnosed – as many as 30-50 million more as claimed by The Institute of Medicine. Certainly sleep apnea and snoring prevent the person suffering with these conditions, and often those sleeping nearby, a good night’s rest. We have spoken in prior blogs about the remedies for sleep apnea, but for those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, or those who can’t comply with a CPAP, oral appliance therapy may just be the ticket to a good night’s sleep.

Oral appliances look like a sports mouth guard and travel well. Not only are they quiet in comparison to a CPAP, they are very easy to care for. If you think you suffer from primary snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, ask me for a referral to a board-certified sleep physician. Once officially diagnosed, you can determine the best treatment option for you. We will be happy to fit you with an oral appliance should that choice work for you.

In the meantime, look for these telltale signs of drowsiness when driving:

  • Yawning constantly
  • Unable to keep your eyes open
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Nodding off
  • Daydreaming, wandering thoughts
  • Drifting into other lanes
  • Can’t remember the last few miles
  • Ending up too close to cars in front
  • Missing road signs
  • Driving past turns
  • Moving onto the `rumble strip’ or road shoulder

If any of these present themselves, switch drivers with someone more alert or pull over into a safe place and take a nap. Then walk around to wake up before driving again.

Be sure to contact me or the staff at my office, Dr. Laurence Stone in Doylestown, PA to discuss any concerns you may have and to schedule your next visit or schedule an appointment to be fit for your oral appliance to assist you in achieving a good night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea – Do you suffer from the “silent killer”?

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The first time I recall hearing anything about obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was shortly after the death of former Philadelphia Eagle and NFL great Reggie White, the famed “Minister of Defense”. Coming just a few weeks after his 43rd birthday, Reggie’s passing really affected my psyche and brought national attention to the issue. After all, he was such a physical specimen as to actually intimidate opposing players. So what happened?

It turns out that sleep apnea happens when one’s airway becomes blocked while sleeping. In many cases it is because a person is overweight and excess tissue thickens the wall of the windpipe making it more difficult to breathe. Sometimes it is because the throat muscles relax more than normal. It’s estimated that about 30 million Americans have sleep apnea with about half of those being undiagnosed. One study estimates the prevalence of OSA in the population visiting the dental office as approaching 34%.

The signs and symptoms of OSA can range from mild snoring to a feeling of general tiredness, cognitive impairment, an increase in blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, obesity and an increase in one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Left untreated OSA can result in heart attack, stroke and in the case of some, like Reggie White, premature death. Additionally, people with OSA are two-three times more likely to be involved in a car crash than those who do not suffer from it, and five times more likely to be involved in a serious car crash!

Obstructive Sleep Apnea can only be diagnosed by a qualified physician with the aid of a polysomnogram (sleep study).Initial treatment may involve abstaining from alcohol and sleep medications, weight loss and a change in sleep position.Beyond that, the gold standard for treatment of OSA is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Surgery may help some and the use of a removable dental appliance to open the airway may also help.

If you think you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea don’t hesitate to discuss this with your physician or call us for a referral.We will be looking for signs of this silent killer each and every time you visit us in the office as well!