Probably you’ve heard the dangers of sleep apnea: it can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, heart failure, and diabetes. But one danger threatens people around the apneic individual: accidents, which includes car accidents, truck accidents, and even train accidents.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the common circumstances of the September, 29th, 2016, New Jersey crash in Hoboken, and the January 4th, 2017, crash in Brooklyn, was that both engineers were later diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can go undiagnosed for a long time, especially if you sleep alone (snoring is the condition’s most common warning sign), and according to reports, neither engineer knew they were being affected by this complication beforehand.
What Is It?
Sleep apnea is a common disorder which causes your body to temporarily stop breathing during sleep. While our bodies naturally pause during breathing cycles, in sleep apnea breathing is interrupted until the brain experiences oxygen deprivation and wakes the body. Doing this between five and one hundred times per hour is considered harmful, robbing us of valuable sleep and contributing to dangerous daytime drowsiness.
The Two Crashes
Thomas Gallagher, the New Jersey engineer responsible for the 2016 crash, told investigators he only remembered looking at his watch and and blowing the horn before impact. Another engineer, standing on the platform at the time of the crash, watched the first car pass him going well over the 5 mph speed limit for the track before colliding into a commuter rail terminal, killing one woman and injuring more than 110 people.
Michael Bakalo, the New York Engineer, had a similar story, reporting to investigators that he only remembered approaching the Brooklyn terminal before being thrown from his seat.
In both cases, the information released by the NTSB doesn’t come to any definite conclusions as to what caused the crashes, but does offer a glimpse into what investigators have learned so far. Because sleep apnea severely affects our quality of sleep, it’s effects can be far-reaching, including memory loss, and depreciated motor functions.
Sleep issues have been blamed in several other recent crashes as well, including a Metro-North commuter train crash in 2013 that killed four people, injured more than 60, and caused about $9 million in damage.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
In 2017 US officials abandoned plans to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers. This makes seeking treatment much more important.
The causes of sleep apnea are considerable, from obesity, smoking, poor exercise, to the size of the tongue, and the shape of the mouth and throat.
At Kuzma Advanced Dentistry, we offer several oral appliances to keep your airway open, protecting against the harmful effects of sleep apnea. This is a more comfortable and convenient treatment than CPAP which is often prescribed as a frontline treatment.