(Philadelphia, PA) - Truck drivers who routinely get too little sleep or suffer from sleep apnea show signs of fatigue and impaired performance that can make them a hazard on the road, according to a major new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The study results are published in the August 15th issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
This study is among the largest and most comprehensive studies of truck drivers and fatigue ever done. Penn researchers examined 406 truck drivers and found that those who routinely slept less than five hours a night were likely to fare poorly on tests designed to measure sleepiness, attention and reaction time, and steering ability. Drivers with severe sleep apnea, a medical condition that causes a poor quality of sleep, also were sleepy and had performance impairment.
Allan Pack, MB, ChB, PhD, who headed the study, said the tired truck drivers had impaired performance similar to that of drivers who are legally drunk. "We identified some very impaired people," said Pack, a sleep expert who directs Penn's Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology.
Nearly five percent of the truckers had severe sleep apnea (a condition in which someone stops breathing often during sleep), and about 13 percent of the drivers got fewer than five hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. "There are daytime neurobehavioral performance impairments that are found commonly in commercial drivers, and these are more likely among those who get an average of five or less hours of sleep a night and those who suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnea," the researchers concluded.
To measure the impact of fatigue on driver performance and safety, Penn researchers sent questionnaires to 4,826 truck drivers who had commercial licenses and lived within 50 miles of the Penn sleep centers. After getting complete responses from 1,329 drivers, they focuse
Contact: Susanne Hartman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine