Reports Say, Sleep Apnea Can Cause Pilots to Fall Asleep at the Controls

Sleep apnea affects approximately 70 million Americans, and the medical expenses, lost productivity, sick leave, and damage cost about $100 billion annually. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can increase a person’s risk for auto accident by six times. It also increases a person’s risk of heart attack. People with OSA often experience daytime drowsiness, fall asleep at inappropriate times, and suffer from forgetfulness, irritability, depression, and fatigue.

Falling asleep on the job is bad if you work in an office. It’s worse if you drive a truck for work. But if your job is flying a commercial aircraft, even almost falling asleep is potentially catastrophic — but not unheard of. According to anonymously authored responses compiled in the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System reports, there are several dozen instances in which pilots fell asleep at the controls of an aircraft. (Source: USA Today)

In studying pilots and sleep apnea, I came across a Federal Aviation Administration’s brochure on Sleep Apnea that begins with a story about two pilots who fell asleep at the controls and overshot their destination. The 40 passengers and 3 crew members aboard safely deplaned, thank goodness. However,  the National Transportation and Safety Administration (NTSA) determined that obstructive sleep apnea and draining work schedules were to blame.

Now, the FAA requires sleep apnea testing for pilots.

I’m Dr. James Stewart, and I treat obstructive sleep apnea in my Livonia dental office. With conservative oral appliance therapy, my OSA patients have overcome symptoms commonly associated with sleep disorders.

If you’re concerned about OSA affecting your health and quality of life, or your work performance, come see me, and let’s talk about the problem. I work closely with a sleep lab that will determine if you have OSA and to what extent. (I underwent a sleep study myself. It’s an interesting experience.) Once we establish you are an OSA patient, I’ll deliver appropriate treatment. A non-invasive sleep guard is a plastic appliance that keeps soft oral tissues from blocking airflow during sleep. It’s highly effective, even on patients who are CPAP intolerant.

You can enjoy the joy of restful nights and productive days. You can avoid fatigue at work. Give me a call today.