What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea and How Does it Affect Your Safety?

Apnea literally means “cessation of breath.” If someone has sleep apnea, his or her breath can become very shallow or may even stop breathing while asleep. This state of not breathing can occur up to dozens of times per hour, awakening the sleeper.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. The most apparent sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Anyone can develop OSA, although it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight.

OSA is a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep coupled with symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness. Because of this, waking up several times prevents you from getting the rest you needed. So in reality, the time in bed does not equal time slept. Eight hours of sleep with OSA can be less refreshing than four hours of ordinary, uninterrupted sleep.

Given this, OSA may culminate in unpredictable and sudden incapacitation like falling asleep at the wheel, thus posing serious cognitive and neuropsychological risks contributing to the potential for crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Commercial vehicle drivers truckers, bus drivers, and others that require commercial drivers license should understand the risks of this condition. If you feel the following symptoms or if you have existing obstructive sleep apnea, it is best to consult with a certified medical examiner to conduct a physical exam for your DOT medical card.


If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you usually begin snoring heavily soon after falling asleep.

  • snoring often becomes very loud
  • snoring is interrupted by a long silent period while your breathing stops
  • the silence is followed by a loud snort and gasp, as you attempt to breathe
  • this pattern repeats throughout the night

Most people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t know their breathing starts and stops during the night. Sometimes, a sleep partner or other family members hear the loud snoring, gasping, and snorting. Snoring can be loud enough to hear through walls.

People with sleep apnea may:

  • wake up unrefreshed in the morning
  • feel sleepy or drowsy throughout the day
  • fall asleep while working, reading, or watching TV
  • feel sleepy while driving, or even fall asleep while driving
  • act grumpy, impatient, or irritable
  • be forgetful
  • have hard-to-treat headaches

Furthermore, someone without enough restorative sleep is often prone to cognitive inabilities such as reaction time, vigilance, attention span, decision making, memory, learning, problem-solving, and multi-tasking. OSA can also lead to mood swings and difficulty controlling inappropriate feelings. While driving, OSA patients were more likely to unintentionally swerve and strike objects – a serious and dangerous outcome for the transportation industry.

OSA raises health and safety concerns beyond those of other sleep disorders. Near-term increases in fatigue and cognitive dysfunction can result. Also, there are long-term adverse health effects such as dramatically increased risk for hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

To learn more, contact us at 925-275-9350 or visit one of our testing centers:

San Ramon Occupational Center (Main Office)
1081 Market Place, Suite 100
San Ramon, CA 94583
Phone: 925-275-9350

Fremont Occupational Testing (by appointment only)
556 Mowry Ave, Suite 102
Fremont, CA 94536
Phone: 510-742-9143


For more information and or to schedule an examination, please contact us at East Bay Occupational Testing / San Ramon Occupational Center at 925-275-9350.

Serving and providing testing and evaluations for DOT and commercial drivers for San Ramon, Danville, Pleasanton, Tracy, Livermore, Alamo, Walnut Creek, Fremont, Lathrop, Stockton, Oakland, Concord, Antioch, Brentwood, and surrounding areas.