Friday, October 23, 2009

Counting Sheep in the High Skies: Pilots Under Investigation for Napping on the Job

Articles in the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal report that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating Norwest Airlines flight 188.

Flight 188 overflew its destination by 150 miles on Wednesday night.

The two pilots claimed that they missed their stop because of a heated debate. But investigators are determining if the pilots were actually catching up on their Z’s.

If sleep was the culprit for flight 188, it would not be the first time.

Safety experts say that there have been at least 10 U.S. airliner accidents and 260 deaths since 1990 due to sleep.

In 2008, two go! airlines pilots fell asleep for more than 18 minutes during a flight to Hilo, Hawaii. The captain of this plane was later diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

OSA occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked during sleep. The person wakes up in order to breathe again, but may not know that they are waking up. This pattern can happen hundreds of times a night.

If left untreated, OSA can cause excessive daytime sleepiness.

Whether or not the flight 188 debacle was sleep-related, regulators are ready to crack down on untreated OSA.

Yesterday, this blog reported on the new NTSB recommendations for mandatory OSA screenings.

There are many ways to treat OSA.

An oral appliance is one option. It looks like a mouth guard and maintains a clear airway during sleep. Many dentists are trained in this treatment.

Find-a-Dentist in your area who treats OSA!

Photo by Caribb

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.