Do you have obstructive sleep apnoea? Is it legal for you to be driving?

Falling asleep at the wheel is a criminal offence and could lead to a prison sentence. The reason for the sleepiness actually makes no difference. The risk of motor vehicle accidents is higher in people with sleep apnoea but treatment leads to considerable reduction in motor vehicle accident risk.

Car accident

Another new study finds that obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with a significantly increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, but this risk is reduced when sleep apnoea is treated effectively. Results show that patients with sleep apnoea were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident,

The study also found that the incidence of motor vehicle accidents was reduced by 70 per cent among sleep apnoea patients who received the correct treatment. Study results are published in the March issue of the journal Sleep and have attracted much attention around the world.

In the United States the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disease afflicting at least 25 million adults in the U.S and similar percentages exist in most other countries with men having a higher rate of OSA, and most being untreated.

Commercial drivers in countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States have had to come to terms with strict new medical guidelines recently. If they are diagnosed with OSA, and the condition is properly treated with CPAP or a suitable and approved oral appliance, then they may continue to drive.

The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) in Britain has stated that a greater awareness of OSA could save many lives each year and have attributed 20% of motorway accidents, often with fatalities, to this disorder.

The current UK Government Directive is that if you have OSA without having daytime sleepiness and it does not impair your driving, you can continue to drive and do not have to notify DVLA.

In recent weeks, Meg Nunn, the MP for Sheffield Heeley was made aware of an accident to one of her own constituents whose nephew had been killed when a lorry ploughed into his car. Since that time she has written to many media to highlight the growing problem of dangerous driving through sleepiness caused by OSA. Although the driver responsible had visited his doctor to complain of the problem, no evaluation had been made and the GP had attributed it to stress.

There is an immeasurable cost to the families of those involved in fatalities, and there are financial implications too. A fatal accident is estimated to cost almost £2 million, with a serious accident at over £0.2 million. Rapid diagnosis and treatment is absolutely essential.

Given that OSA is associated with many other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, massive savings to the nations involved can also made in the reduction of medication for those conditions.

Current estimates suggests that OSA is prevalent in over 15% of HGV drivers and remains a huge problem, but it is not one without a solution, and a quick one at that.

Approved oral appliances for mild to moderate OSA include British-made SleepPro Custom. The SleepPro Custom was recommended as the best oral appliance for sleep apnoea after stringent testing of a selection of oral appliances that were conducted in 2014 at the NHS Papworth Hospital, the leading UK Hospital for sleep disorders of this kind, This appliance is now available in an anti-microbial version as Custom AM protecting health even more – and the first OSA oral appliance to do so.

For a very small price, medically approved appliances like SleepPro Custom can help you live as much as 20% longer, and as a bonus, help to avoid dangerous motoring accidents that hurt others too.

UK & Ireland                         USA & Canada                   Australia & New Zealand

John Redfern