Hundreds of company car and van drivers could be at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel because of an undiagnosed condition.
Drivers with sleep apnoea are more likely to be involved in an accident and risk falling asleep while driving on business, but the condition is hard to diagnose and fleet drivers could be suffering from the condition without even knowing it.
An estimated 800,000 people in the UK suffer from sleep apnoea, a condition that disrupts breathing while sleeping. According to the NHS, only one in four people with obstructive sleep apnoea are diagnosed with the condition.
Sleep apnoea is surprisingly common, but some drivers may not be aware that the condition even exists let alone what the symptoms are.
“I could always fall asleep anywhere almost straight away, I would wake up tired after nine hours sleep and not know why,” said Alan Mills, an employee at Arnold Clark Vehicle Management who suffers from the condition.
When driving long distances, especially on motorways I found myself nodding off and having to stop at every service station for a strong coffee as a result.”
Mills believes companies have a duty of care to educate drivers, especially those who drive high mileage, on the effects and symptoms of sleep apnoea.
“I think it is important fleet managers take this on board from a health and safety perspective, anyone who is doing more than 25,000 miles should be considered and questioned for symptoms,” said Mills.
The onset of OSA is most common in people aged 35 to 54 years old, although it can affect people of all ages, including children. The condition prevents suffers from getting proper sleep and results in excessive tiredness which poses a real threat to safety if they drive for business.
However, only now is awareness being raised on the condition and still GPs are reluctant to refer or diagnose patients.
“It’s been in the dark ages for so long, only now people are talking about it,” said Mills.
“The GP recognised there was something not right but could not refer me as he couldn’t diagnose, I was tested for diabetes, iron efficiency and thyroid problems, all came up with nothing.”
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