Untreated sleep apnea is a killer. Comorbidities and general health impacts are well understood and represent serious risks. However, we can underestimate the physical risk associated with excessive daytime sleepiness that is a primary symptom of OSA.
Those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are between 2x and 2.5x more likely to be involved in motor vehicle or workplace accidents. The numbers get even worse for those with OSA that also use sleeping pills or sleep for less than 5 hours (commonly associated with untreated OSA). In fact, of all the motor vehicle accidents caused by male drivers in the US that involved injury, it’s estimated that 7% of them can be attributed to untreated sleep apnea.
“Excessive daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause you to awaken in the morning feeling tired and unrefreshed despite a full night of sleep,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. “Effective identification and treatment of sleep apnea is essential to reduce avoidable, life-threatening accidents caused by drowsy driving.”
Sleep apnea has a massive impact on those who suffer from it and broader society. As a data point, a recent analysis by the American Academy of Sleep Science estimated that untreated OSA cost the US Economy about $150B.
So, while sleep apnea disrupts the nights of those who suffer it’s effect, it can also destroy your health and safety during the daylight hours.
Now for the good news: OSA is treatable. CPAP therapy has been found to be an effective remedy to reduce these elevated risks. It’s been found that using CPAP therapy for at least 4 hours / night reduces the risk of a motor vehicle accident by 70%. A separate study of european sleep data found accident rates fell to normal rates once CPAP therapy was used.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
American Academy of Sleep Science: American Journal of Managed Care
Sleep Research Society:
European Respiratory Review: