Enjoy your vacations even with sleep apnea: Sleep apnea precautions when driving

SEVERE OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA AND SLEEP APNEA IN GENERAL AFFECT DRIVING CONSIDERABLY. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO EXCEPT STOPPING USING YOUR CAR? ORGANIZATION AND MONITORING ARE KEY TO A SECURE AND PLEASANT JOURNEY.

Having an untreated sleep apnea disorder increases the rate of car accidents compared to the overall average.(1) With treatment, the risk would be equal.

It has been proven that sleep apnea affects cognitive performance:(1) memory, attention and coordination… Especially for long trips on highways. A poor night’s sleep causes excessive daytime drowsiness.
In some countries and states, sleep apnea sufferers cannot work as professional drivers, and falling asleep can be judged as a crime. It remains difficult to control every individual on the road.

SOME GOOD ADVICE BEFORE AND WHILE DRIVING

This common sense advice can save lives:
-  Plan your trip: make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your drive; plan on reaching your destination in daytime hours, even if it is crowded.

- Do not drive more than two hours at a time. After two hours, take a break, even if you feel fine. A lot of rest areas offer activities for children and other services to make people want to stop. It is always worth stopping at the service station for gas, to stretch your legs and change driver.
- When you are not driving, why not take a nap with your CPAP machine? It is no problem with a battery and you will feel full of energy when your turn to drive comes round again.
- Drink water in small but frequent quantities to keep you well hydrated.
- When it comes to eating, it is best to choose light food such as vegetables, white meat or fish instead of snacks full of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat. Rich and heavy meals induce sleep.
- Be aware of signs of daytime drowsiness: your eyes closing or going out of focus, trouble keeping your head up, feeling tired. Pay attention: loud music or fresh air will only solve the problem for a few minutes… 

(1) Sleep breathing disorders – European Respiratory Society White Book (chapter 23)

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