Archive for the ‘Caffeine’ Category

Danger on the Road for Tired Truckers

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The backbone of our economic infrastructure is based on open access to readily available goods. To keep this system working properly, we rely upon an extensive network of freight transportation, including the trucking industry. In fact, trucking accounts for 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods. Truckers work hard to stay on schedule, sometimes to the detriment of their health.

Drowsy driving is a constant danger for truck drivers. The long hours and monotonous routes lend themselves to fatigue. Coupled with a lack of exercise and unhealthy truck stop dining, the risk for both obesity and sleep-related health risks is high.

Chief amongst those risks is sleep disordered breathing, or sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is closely related to obesity and its symptoms include snoring, hypertension, and excessive daytime sleepiness. It also increases risks for heart attack, stroke, and insulin resistance. Many truck drivers may not know they have the condition. In fact, in a recent Australian research study of 517 commercial vehicle drivers, only 4% believed they had sleep apnea. However, when the group was tested 41% were positive for the condition.

One barrier in treating truckers for sleep disorders is the unfortunate perpetuation of the myth that getting a diagnosis of sleep apnea will lead to loss of a driver’s commercial license. Over the past decade, this groundless rumor has spread through the trucking industry as companies have begun to include sleep screenings in annual physicals. Some drivers discourage peers from revealing information to their doctors about their sleep habits and level of fatigue. This is a disturbing trend as truckers who may truly need treatment for sleep disorders are afraid of being honest with their physician based on the unfounded risk of losing their jobs. “We’re not in the business of pulling people’s licenses or jeopardizing their livelihood,” says Dr Daniel Root, Medical Director at Oregon Sleep Associates, “We’re here to provide commercial drivers with access to proper screening and treatment options that keep them safe and alert on the roads.”

Despite government regulations to limit the amount of hours spent behind the wheel, many truck drivers are pushed to work long hours and meet deadlines. Also, late-night shift work is common for drivers and can lead to excessive fatigue. When one considers that a vehicle moving at 55 mph travels almost 81 feet per second, it is evident that even a momentary lapse in attention or quick nod-off can result in fatal consequences. It is very important to pull over and rest if you feel fatigued when driving. If this happens frequently or if you have other symptoms of a sleep disorder such as snoring or apnea, be honest with your physician about your fatigue or seek treatment directly at Oregon Sleep Associates.

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Monday, January 24th, 2011

Look on the side of a Rockstar, Red Bull, or 5 Hour Energy and you’ll usually find a warning for these products to be avoided by pregnant women or those sensitive to caffeine. These drinks, as well as the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee, can be consumed responsibly by adults. But should children be consuming caffeine?

A recent study published in the Journal Of Pediatrics reported that 75% of children ages 5 to 12 consume caffeine daily. Most of that consumption came in the form of soda, although the substance is also found in other sources such as chocolate. The study found that children aged 5 to 7 years were on average consuming 52mg of caffeine per day and those aged 8 to 12 years were consuming 109mg. To put that in perspective, the average Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine and a normal cup of coffee has around 120mg.

It is important to remember that caffeine is a drug and can have serious side effects. The lead researcher on the study, Dr William Warzak, advises, “Parents should be aware of the potentially negative influence of caffeine on a child’s sleep quality and daily functioning.” Caffeine is a stimulant and leads to hyperactivity, making it harder for children to focus in school and at home. It also is a diuretic, which can increase the likelihood of bed-wetting when consumed close to bedtime. The effects of caffeine can greatly disrupt children’s sleep cycles and increase nocturnal arousals. Disrupted and shortened sleep have been proven to be detrimental to childhood development, leading to increased obesity, hyperactivity, and decreased school performance.

Experts consider it unnecessary for children to consume caffeine and instead recommend milk, juices, or water to quench thirst. The next time your child wants something to drink, encourage lifetime of healthy habits by avoiding soda.

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Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Drowsy driving is a very dangerous and under addressed problem facing our population. Each year thousands of accidents are caused by momentary fatigue-related lapses in attention and drivers simply falling asleep behind the wheel. Now companies are taking a proactive approach to keeping drivers awake.

Long hours on the road increase the risk for falling asleep whether you’re a trucker or just an average driver. A vehicle moving at 60 miles an hour can travel hundreds of feet in just seconds so nodding off momentarily can be fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration more than 100,000 police-reported crashes, resulting in 1,550 deaths and another 71,000 injuries each year are caused by drowsy driving.

Mercedes Benz recently developed a system to be integrated into their cars which can sense steering angle trends and corrections made by the driver. By analyzing these trends, the system can recognize variations that may indicate drowsiness and alert the driver. Other companies such as Saab are developing similar systems.

For those of us without Mercedes, there are aftermarket solutions available. Devices like the NoNap or DozeAlert can be worn over a person’s ear. These device monitors the angle of the driver’s head and sounds a buzzer when the person nods off.

The Anti Sleep Pilot requires more interaction with the driver. The hockey puck sized device is programed and placed on the dashboard. The driver must respond to cues by touching the device when prompted. It determines reaction time and cross-references this information with risk factors for falling asleep. Then a recommendation to take a break is given.

These are all novel ways to address the problem of drowsy driving, however the root cause is not being fixed. People are too fatigued and distracted in the car. Often there can be an underlying sleep disorder causing excessive fatigue. People with Sleep Apnea have double the risk of being involved in a car crash than those who don’t suffer from the condition. Before you get behind the wheel, make sure you get tested for sleep disorders. You might save a life.

For more information check out the National Sleep Foundation’s drowsy driving website.

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