Sleep Apnea
and DOT Requirements

Covered by Medical Insurance – We are In-Network!

The DOT (Department of Transportation) physical is a mandatory health examination for drivers of commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds. Drivers must successfully complete this physical every two years to maintain their eligibility.

One critical area of this health check is screening for sleep apnea, a condition that has become a significant concern for drivers. Sleep apnea causes considerable sleep loss, which can impair a driver’s ability to stay focused and alert. Thus, it can potentially cause a driver to fall asleep at the wheel and increase the risk of fatal accidents.

Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations don’t specifically mention sleep apnea, they state that anyone diagnosed with a medical condition that could impact safe driving cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) across state lines. Once a condition like sleep apnea is effectively treated, a driver can regain their status as “medically qualified to drive.”

At Sleep Better Des Moines, we help commercial drivers take sleep tests in their homes to confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea and get the most effective treatment.

Quick Links

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What is Sleep Apnea?

How does it work and what types could be affecting you.

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Common Symptoms

Being tired isn’t the only common symptom of an undiagnosed condition!

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Risk Factors

Are you lifestyle and health putting you at risk?

Do You Need to Take a Sleep Apnea Test During Your DOT Physical?

When you undergo your DOT physical, you are examined for certain risk factors that might interfere with your breathing. These factors are considered great predictors of sleep apnea and could direct your medical examiner to prescribe a sleep test:

  • A BMI of 30 or greater.
  • Neck size of 17 inches or greater for men and 16 inches or greater for women.
  • Being over the age of 40.
  • Having a small jaw, recessed chin, or a large overbite.
  • Having a small upper airway.
  • Having one or more of these health conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, heart disease, history of stroke.
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea.
  • Smoking and alcohol use.

Even if you don’t display these risk factors, a sleep test may be ordered if you report experiencing some of the common symptoms of sleep apnea, such as:

  • Consistent fatigue/sleepiness during the day.
  • You snore frequently and loudly.
  • You have been involved in a sleep-related traffic accident in the past.
  • Someone has informed you that you stop breathing during your sleep.

Can You Pass a DOT Physical if You Have Sleep Apnea?

Yes, you can. The main concern with sleep apnea is whether it is being effectively managed, as untreated sleep apnea will eventually compromise your ability to drive safely (due to excessive fatigue). To pass the DOT physical exam, you must demonstrate that your sleep apnea is controlled.

You can do this by:

  • Having a formal diagnosis from a healthcare professional focused on sleep disorders.
  • Treatments such as oral appliance therapy or CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) – and show compliance with your doctor-recommended treatment regimen.
  • Obtain a letter from your sleep care provider stating that your sleep apnea is under control and that you are compliant with treatment. This document should confirm that you can safely meet the demands of driving a commercial vehicle.
  • You should make regular follow-up appointments with your sleep care provider or dental sleep practitioner to monitor your condition and any potential side effects of treatment.

Each case is different, so the FMCSA allows medical examiners some discretion in determining whether a driver with sleep apnea is qualified to receive or renew their DOT certification. Again, if you can show them that you are managing your condition well and that it doesn’t pose a risk while driving, there’s no reason why you can’t pass the physical medical test.

It should also be noted that if you are a commercial driver diagnosed with sleep apnea and are undergoing treatment, you’ll need to undergo a DOT physical every 12 months instead of the standard 24 months, which applies to drivers without such conditions.

As you can see, a sleep apnea diagnosis does not mean you cannot get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or that you will lose it – it only means that you can’t afford to overlook your condition. If you haven’t already taken a sleep apnea test, do so to confirm the diagnosis and work with sleep care providers like Sleep Better Des Moines to get the right treatment. You only risk losing your license if you let untreated sleep apnea make you a danger to yourself and others on the road. Our team can help you with every step of the process, from getting a diagnosis to the treatment, and none of it will ever interfere with your job as a CMV driver.

Tips for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers
to Sleep Better

Driving a commercial truck for hours on end is a demanding job, and managing sleep apnea can seem quite overwhelming. For you, getting a good night’s sleep is not only a personal health concern but also a regulatory requirement.

The following tips will help you optimize your treatment and make sure your sleep is as restorative as possible:

Use Your CPAP Machine Wisely

If you are using CPAP, make sure your mask fits well. A poorly fitting mask will be uncomfortable and cause air to leak out. Also, learn how to adjust the humidity settings on your CPAP machine; a higher humidity level can sometimes help reduce nasal irritation and dryness.

Master Your Oral Appliance

Visit your sleep medicine dentist regularly to get your dental appliance adjusted properly. Over time, your mouth and teeth can shift slightly, changing how the appliance fits. Regular adjustments ensure that the device continues to effectively manage your sleep apnea by maintaining the correct positioning of your jaw and airway during sleep. 

Keep Your Sleep Environment Dark, Cold, and Quiet

Use blackout curtains and consider white noise machines or apps that can help drown out external noises. This is particularly useful if you sleep during the day or at truck stops where noise and light are more challenging to control and block out. Your sleep area should be cooler (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit) for maximum comfort.

Maintain a Consistent Routine

Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on days off. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and improves sleep quality.

Take a Nap

Short naps of 20-30 minutes can help alleviate drowsiness during work shifts without interfering with main sleep periods.

Eat Healthy and Exercise

Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and nicotine close to bedtime to avoid disrupting your sleep or reducing the efficacy of your sleep apnea treatment. Engaging in some light cardio or aerobic exercises also goes a long way to minimize fatigue. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime as it can be stimulating.

Try Some Relaxation Techniques

Practices like mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises before bed can help reduce stress and facilitate sleep.

Keep a Sleep Diary

Track your sleep patterns and how you feel after waking up so you and your healthcare provider can make informed decisions about adjustments to your treatment.

Take a Sleep Apnea Test with Sleep Better Des Moines

Don’t want to stay overnight in a hospital or a sleep lab to take a sleep apnea test? Sleep Better Des Moines offers a more affordable and convenient option: take a sleep study in your own space! Take this free online sleep apnea screener on our website and pick a time for your no-cost 15-minute consultation over the phone. We’ll discuss your symptoms and risk factors and help you order the best at-home sleep test equipment accordingly. If sleep apnea is confirmed, we can then explore your treatment options.

Taking the test is very simple. It will be delivered right to your doorstep (or any address of your choosing), and you can complete it at your own convenience. You’ll receive chest, finger, and wrist sensors that track different sleep metrics, including your breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, how well you are sleeping, the frequency and intensity of your snoring, and so on.

This data is recorded electronically and automatically sent to qualified sleep experts to determine whether you have sleep apnea and, if you do, how severe it is. Based on these findings, Dr. Steffany Mohan, DDS, and her team at Sleep Better Des Moines will create a customized treatment plan for you, keeping in mind any special restrictions you may have with your job as a DOT professional. Contact us today to get started.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea in Central Iowa

Sleep Better Des Moines offers patient-friendly sleep apnea treatments in the central Iowa area. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. One of our sleep professionals will meet with you to determine what sleep apnea treatment is right for you.

Our team will listen to you, care for you, and find the treatment you need.

How many tests do I need to take to get treated for sleep apnea?
In most cases, one at-home sleep test allows our sleep professionals to provide an effective diagnosis. In certain situations, multiple tests or an in-lab test may be required. Our dentists will be transparent about when testing requires a more complex cadence. One at-home test will allow our team to treat sleep apnea in most cases. These tests monitor oxygen levels, movement, heart rate, and more in the comfort of your own home to help gather data leading to an accurate diagnosis. You likely will find this test to be cost-effective, convenient, and easy to schedule. Start by scheduling a consultation today.
Where can I find sleep apnea treatments in central Iowa?
Sleep Better Des Moines is right in the heart of central Iowa. Our office specifically treats sleep apnea through oral device therapy. This specialization allows us to offer our patients with great results. The team’s patient-friendly approach is a leader in Iowa, and we are committed to improving lives for those who live in the general area. Call us today to schedule a consultation. Our team will meet with you, schedule an at-home test, provide an accurate diagnosis, and offer a treatment plan to address your sleep apnea or snoring condition.