In the December 2011 AOPA Pilot magazine (" Perchance to dream" page 32), I wrote an article about obstructive sleep apnea and covered a number of aspects of this common condition that leads to potential for cockpit problems. It astonishes me how often people dismiss serious health issues, and given that our pilot population skews male with an average age in their 50s, common sense tells you there are snorers out there—often a key indicator of sleep apnea.
Have any of you checked out the FAR/AIM recently? Often characterized as more of an aid to good sleep than an exciting read, the 2012 edition contains something that should wake you up. In Chapter 8, Section 1, the manual points out that obstructive sleep apnea, where partial blockage of the airway leads to snoring, disturbed sleep, and thereby daytime weariness, is a factor in aviation accidents. As such, pilots presenting for their aviation physical may be asked about snoring and other symptoms, and if they appear overweight the doctor will calculate the body mass index; if over 30 or if the neck collar is greater than 17 inches, sleep studies may be recommended.
We have all seen the news reports of air traffic controllers and commercial pilots who have been caught having a snooze at inappropriate times, and we also know that fatigue plays a role in motor vehicle accidents and probably in some aviation accidents. It makes sense to be aware of the dangers of sleep apnea for your own health and the sanity of your bed partner. Now there is a compelling reason to be aware and take action to preserve your flying privileges. Lose weight, change your diet, and get tested and treated. And sleep well in your bed so that you can fly well in your airplane.