It is reported that more than 2% of traffic accidents are related to drowsy driving. People who drive weary, a sign of sleep apnea, may not know how much their lack of sleep impacts their driving, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is concerned about undiagnosed sleep apnea (FMCSA). Thus, this article is about sleep apnea CDL drivers, what are the symptoms, and tips to deal with this issue. 


cdl drivers sleep apnea
A sleep apnea CDL drivers 


1. What is CDL sleep apnea?


1.1. Sleep apnea definition

Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep condition that can cause breathing interruptions while sleeping. These breathing pauses might last 10 seconds or more and occur up to 400 times every night. Sleep apnea is a critical, perhaps fatal disorder that frequently goes unnoticed and misdiagnosed.


1.2. Risk factors of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea affects people of all ages and genders, however, there are several risk factors you should be aware of:

  •  History of sleep apnea in the family 
  •  Obesity
  • Large neck (17 inches or more for males, 16 inches or more for women)
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption 
  • Being 40 or older 
  • Ethnicity


1.3. Symptoms of sleep apnea

If you have half of the following symptoms below, you are likely to have a sleep apnea issue that needs to be carefully paid attention to: 

  • Sleep Apnea Symptoms 
  • Loud snoring 
  • Morning headaches and nausea 
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping 
  • Loss of sex drive/impotence
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness 
  • Irritability and/or feelings of sadness 
  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Concentration and memory issues


2. Can you have a CDL with Sleep apnea?

While Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations do not specifically address sleep apnea, the FMCSA does state that anyone with a clinical diagnosis or medical history of any condition that could interfere with their safe driving ability cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.

They can, however, qualify for “medically qualified-to-drive” status if they get satisfactory therapy. It is critical to understand that the majority of sleep apnea instances may be effectively treated.


sleep apnea cdl drivers
Sleep apnea CDL drivers can be disqualified 


3. Is sleep apnea affect your CDL career? 

The FMCSA has decided that moderate to severe sleep apnea levels (as determined by a sleep study diagnostic) impair driving safety. If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you are deemed unable to drive a CMV and will lose your CDL. You will be allowed to reapply for your CDL once you begin therapy and are authorized by your medical examiner.

If the findings of your sleep study demonstrate that your sleep apnea is moderate to severe (Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) more than 20), you must comply with your recommended therapy and report that your sleep apnea is being adequately treated, according to the FMSCA. Read the CDL DOT Physical Exam to know how can you be disqualified from CDL if you are under sleep apnea.


4. What are some tips to help CDL drivers with sleep apnea? 


If you think you may have sleep apnea or already had one, you should directly visit your doctor to have a course of therapy (if necessary). Besides, we already combined some tips to help CDL sleep apnea drivers to improve their sleeping condition: 


4.1. Have a sleep schedule 

If you are experiencing sleep apnea, you should create your own sleeping schedule. We know that being a truck driver requires you to work with a mixed schedule driving, however, it can make your sleeping issue even worst. 


4.2. Use the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine method

Most people with sleep apnea are using this method to help with their issue, CDL driver is not an exception. The most effective therapy for sleep apnea is a nighttime mask called a CPAP that sends increased air pressure into the airway to keep the throat from contracting. When your throat muscles have relaxed too much during sleep, this air pressure moves into the back of your throat and holds it open.


The key to CPAP therapy is to locate a mask and machine that fits your needs, clean the CPAP components on a regular basis, and wash your face before putting it on at night. Speak with your health care practitioner or a sleep specialist about customizing a CPAP device to your specific needs.


4.3. Use the dental appliance

Oral appliance treatment is an excellent alternative to CPAP if you have mild to severe sleep apnea. This custom-made mouthguard moves the lower jaw forward slightly, tightening the soft tissues and muscles at the back of your throat to prevent blockage as you sleep. 


Dental gadgets do require a particular fitting, so talk to your doctor about this treatment option.


4.4. Change your lifestyle 

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Having and keeping a healthy body weight is advantageous for a variety of health concerns. Consume a healthful diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Avoid drinking and smoking: Alcohol has been shown to exacerbate sleep apnea and snoring. Even tiny quantities of alcohol can cause sleep disruption and early morning awakenings.
  • Regular physical activity: Moderate aerobic exercise can enhance your heart, waistline, and sleep quality. Aim for 30 minutes of daily physical activity.


cdl sleep apnea
Don’t drink and smoke too much


5. What are the frequently asked questions about sleep apnea CDL drivers?


5.1. Does DOT requires sleep apnea testing?

There are no rules in place that require a DOT physical for sleep apnea. However, in order to obtain and keep a CDL license, drivers must pass a medical test.


5.2. Can I lose my CDL license if I’m positive for sleep apnea?

The FMCSA has established that moderate to severe sleep apnea levels (as determined by a sleep study diagnostic) interfere with safe driving. You will lose your CDL if you are diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea. You will be allowed to reapply for your CDL once you start therapy and are authorized by your medical examiner.


5.3. How can I prepare for the DOT medical exam if I’m about to have severe sleep apnea?

If you have a current sleep apnea diagnosis, follow the FMCSA’s compliance criteria to keep on track with your treatment. Make a copy of your CPAP compliance report and bring it with you to your test. You must bring a copy of each compliance report if you have more than one machine and mask.


5.4. Can I refuse a sleep study? 

No, you can’t. If you refuse it, you can’t receive the DOT Physical to operate a CDL. 


In summary, we already provided information about sleep apnea and how it can affect your health as well as your CDL career. Thus, you should pay attention to this sleeping issue and prepare for treatment to get over this issue. You can do everything you want if you are determined to do it! If you are looking for a CDL website to practice, start with our CDL Practice Test, numerous practice questions are waiting for you!