When Sleep Apnea Turns Deadly

Man in blue shirt snoring on couch

If you have come to see us at Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine, chances are good that you understand and recognize the severity of sleep apnea.  Unfortunately, the dangers of sleep apnea have a history of going undetected in many professions – most notably, in the mass transit industry. Recent train crashes have called to light some glaring inconsistencies in the regulations for mass transit.

According to an article from Sleep Review, a couple of recent railway accidents were possibly caused by “undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.”  The two accidents combined injured just under 250 people.  A closer look at these incidents reveals that undiagnosed sleep apnea seems to be a concern in transit workers. Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) drew focus to the safety issues at these terminals. While an automatic-stop option seems a good idea in case of emergency, the article suggests there are “no mechanisms installed in the United States that will automatically stop a train at the end of the track if the engineer is incapacitated, inattentive, or disengaged.”

The lack of safety regulation is alarming.  A quick Google search of “subway safety regulations” brings up an article from the Baltimore Sun discussing the deteriorated safety standards of the Baltimore Metro rail system – for more than a year prior to shutdown.  While these system safety concerns are disheartening, perhaps a more serious point of contention is the operator of these mass transit vehicles.

As a community, we are coming to understand the significance of sleep in an individual’s lifestyle. More sleep research is bringing unknown circumstances to light – such as a person’s inability to recognize symptoms of sleep deprivation in his or herself.  This research must be taken into consideration when safety regulations are discussed and reviewed. Sleepapnea.org estimates “22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.”

What this evidence suggests is that an individual cannot be the only determining factor regarding his or her capabilities – especially if hundreds of citizens rely on him or her for their daily commute.This is a perfect example of what government regulation should be all about.  When the greater good must trump an individual’s shortsightedness, we must be able to trust in our government and safety systems.

If you or someone you know struggles with any sleep issues, please have a sleep study done.  If your sleep habits concern you, please schedule an appointment.  Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine can help to bring some closure to an issue that doesn’t have to be dangerous, if monitored and treated properly.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Weary Workers

Fifty percent of all employees are currently living with some type of sleep disorder that is causing them to feel fatigued at the workplace and in their personal lives. Ninety percent of employers report being negatively affected by employee fatigue.

Work Fatigue: More of a Problem Than You May Think

According to the National Safety Council, fatigue is a growing problem affecting the workforce. Research estimates that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, and 43% of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work.

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: Here is Why "The Change" Can Be So Hard

It’s only an hour, but feels like so much more!  When we set clocks forward or back for Daylight Savings, it can feel like we got hit with an awful case of jet lag! Learn how the time change & other sleep disruptions can detrimentally affect your health.

CPAP Vs. Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) units are the most commonly prescribed solutions for sleep apnea/snoring. CPAP is a very effective treatment for people who can accommodate to it but, unfortunately, it does not work for nearly 50% of users.

Sleep Disorders: How They Lead to Heart Attacks

Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation from constant nightly interruptions and shallower overall sleep. Because of how it affects oxygen balance in the body, untreated sleep apnea raises dangers for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.