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If I have sleep apnea, can I still get DOT approval?

DOT physical spring hill


Doctors recommend getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but sometimes we just can’t make the time for it. Whether we are working too much, suffering from insomnia, or simply trying to balance too many responsibilities, sometimes 6 hours is all we get. Not getting enough sleep is bad enough for our mental and physical health, according to the National Institutes of Health. In fact, that is why there are limits to how much driving you are allowed to do as a commercial driver. But what happens if your 6 or 8 hours of sleep is interrupted? As rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise in the US, so do cases of sleep apnea, a condition in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. And lately, some aspiring commercial vehicle drivers have had problems passing their DOT physicals because of the risk of sleep apnea. As providers of the DOT physical in Spring Hill, we are here to help you better understand what the condition is and why so many providers are acting cautiously.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep condition in which you stop breathing multiple times while sleeping. As a result, your body and brain do not get enough oxygen and you wake up feeling unrested. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Having a large neck (over 17 inches for men and 16 for women)
  • And more.

If you consider the great majority of the US commercial truck driving force, you’ll see there is some overlap in demographics. But while these are risk factors, they don’t automatically mean you have sleep apnea. However, some DOT medical examiners are using neck circumference and age as a guide to commission a sleep study during your physical, before issuing your medical card. They do this out of concern, but it can be extremely inconvenient if you’re ready to get on the road. What does it mean for you if you’re getting a DOT physical Spring Hill?

DOT physical spring hill

DOT Physical Hernando County and Sleep Apnea

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has not issued guidance or rules for medical examiners to automatically commission a sleep study in the case of sleep apnea or existence of risk factors for sleep apnea.

Medical examiners, like those doing your DOT Physical in Spring Hill, may still refer potential drivers to a sleep study if they suspect sleep apnea could be affecting the individual’s health and would prevent them from operating a commercial vehicle safely. After all, drowsy driving is as bad as drunk driving, and it is the medical examiner’s responsibility to ensure that drivers are medically fit. But this referral will likely not be based only on neck circumference, but will take into account other risk factors or stated symptoms.

Remember, during a DOT physical in Hernando County, our doctors are focused on ensuring patients meet the minimum federal criteria. However, your employer could have more stringent requirements. If you need to get your DOT physical without hassle, come to Lifeguard Urgent Care. Located in Spring Hill, we accept walk-in patients without an appointment. Still have questions about the DOT physical or want to be sure you’re prepared? Check out our FAQ.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.