Last Fall, we spoke a bit about sleep apnea and its potential role in the Hoboken (NJ) train crash that killed a woman standing on the station platform.

Earlier this month, it was reported that sleep apnea was, indeed, the probable cause of the accident.

Quick Synopsis of the Train Accident
A commuter train engineer in November 2016, crashed the train he was driving into a station platform in Hoboken at 21 mpg which was double the allowable speed of 10 mph. Earlier he was reported to have sped around a curve at over 80 mph. A woman standing on the station platform was killed by falling debris and over 100 people were injured. After the crash, the engineer, who had reported feeling rested when he reported to work in the early morning, tested positive for the sleep apnea risk factor of being morbidly obese but, unfortunately, wasn’t diagnosed with it until after the crash. The engineer has no memory of the crash. A similar incident occurred in January, 2017 on the Long Island Railroad in Brooklyn. In all, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believes that sleep apnea has caused 10 highway and railroad accidents since 2000.

Legislators are now pushing for government-mandated sleep disorder testing, and more specifically sleep apnea testing, in train engineers and truck drivers. Chuck Schumer (D, NY) said that “We can’t have train engineers with undiagnosed sleep apnea at risk of falling asleep at the switch.”

Dr. Donald Sesso, a BergerHenry ENT Board Certified Otolaryngologist who is widely regarded as Philadelphia’s snoring and sleep doctor says “unfortunately, sleepiness at work is not uncommon. This train accident is just an extreme consequence of falling asleep at work. Too often sleepiness is ignored. Often times, working while you are tired is a “badge of honor.” Typically, not getting enough sleep is the most common cause of daytime fatigue. The average adult should aim for approximately 7-8 hours of sleep per night.”

“If you are sleeping this amount of time and still feel tired, sleep apnea should be considered, especially if you snore. While not all patients with sleep apnea snore, it should be considered a warning sign that you have sleep apnea. Approximately 80% of adult snorers have at least mild sleep apnea.

While most people don’t work in the transportation industry, many of us are driving to work tired each day. This puts you and everyone else on the road at risk. Studies show that significant fatigue can impair your driving as much as alcohol.

If you are tired or snore, it is simple to diagnosis sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea can make you safer at work and on the road. In addition, it may improve your concentration, memory and daily performance.”

3 Types of Sleep Apnea

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Central Sleep Apnea
  • Complex, or Mixed, Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the airway partially or completely collapses or becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep. When the airway is blocked, oxygen levels drop and the person subsequently awakens long enough to begin breathing again. These awakenings or arousals can last only a few seconds but can occur hundreds of times during the night. Since the awakenings are short, the person suffering with OSA may not know that he/she has it but symptoms should give a clue:

  • sleepiness or drowsiness during the day
  • daytime headaches
  • inability to concentrate
  • irritiability
  • falling asleep during routine activities, i.e., driving a train!
  • insomnia
  • waking up with dry mouth or a sore throat
  • anxiety and/or depression
  • sexual dysfunction

Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea and accurs when there is a blockage in the airway and the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.

Complex, Mixed, or Treatment-emergent sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Who’s At Risk of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea affects men, women, and children. However, men are more likely to have sleep apnea. Up to 50 million Americans have sleep apnea. Specifically, up to 24% of adult men, up to 9% of adult women, and up to 3% of children have sleep apnea. The range is wide because millions go undiagnosed, and as a result, untreated. If you don’t get treated, you could cause a horrific train, airplane, or car accident. At the least, you may adversely affect relationships, productivity, and quality of life. At its basic level, you won’t get a good night’s sleep which poses all sorts of physical problems for you.

Get Treated for Sleep Apnea
If left untreated, whether you’re a train engineer or an accountant, sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke. Schedule an appointment with your ENT.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea caused 2 NYC train crashes. Could you have sleep apnea, too?