“This is Your Captain Sleeping” – OSA affects Pilots,too!

Dreamy Hawaiian islands..enough to make you sleepy, even without OSA

Two commercial airline pilots, who fell asleep while on duty in February this year, have been reinstated as pilots after they were confirmed to have been diagnosed as suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). See here.

The two, who were commandeering a 45 min commercial flight operated by Go! Airlines from Honolulu to Hilo on February 13 carrying 40 passengers, overflew their destination at 21,000 feet and alarmed air traffic controllers when they received no response. Finally, when contact was established after one of them woke up, the plane  landed safely.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) suspended them for up to 60 days for careless and reckless operation of an aircraft and for failing to maintain radio communications but allowed them to resume duties from 9 September, presumably because they had received treatment for OSA and certified fit.

This incident highlights a rather newly-recognised medical condition which causes people to snore and stop breathing repeatedly in their sleep, causing them to feel extremely drowsy the next day. I have even encountered cases of chauffeurs presenting with chest-pain due to chest injury , the result of them falling asleep at the wheel and crashing their cars! Please see my earlier post to know more about OSA, the medical version.

9 responses

  1. Doc,
    Just eating the plate lunches will put you to sleep!
    Good to see Hawaii on your blog.

  2. Not long ago, I came across a neat little device (Made by China) that you stick to your ear (for driving) the moment your head drop/tilted down certain angle it gives out some sharp pitch noise. Do not know whether those stuff help with those condition.

    Perhaps someone should suggest to Boeing/Airbus to build it into the headset worn by Pilot to prevent such doze off.

    nice writing- have a nice weekend.

  3. The implications of sleeping on the job are damaging to say the least. This, I believe, applies to whatever job is being undertaken including but not limited to piloting a plane, driving a car, or even, managing/leading a country!

    After having said the above, is there a cure for OSA?

    Doctor2008 says: You’re dead right! There are cures and remedies for OSA, of course. Check out my links in the post.

  4. Doc,

    My husband has been diagnosed and treated for OSA. Sleeping disorders are excluded from insurance here in Malaysia and with the cost of follow ups and of the CPAP machine, I wonder how many ppl are affected with the poor quality of life due to unavailability of these machines.

    In the long run OSA will have adverse effect on ones body, so what other ways are there to seek financing for medical help?

    Doctor2008 says: This is a universal problem – lack of sufficient resources to provide universal healthcare.
    My advice to you is first, to seek an OSA specialist to see if your husband has made full use of the various options of treatment – see my links in the article on OSA. There are local experts on this, one of them with HUKM.

  5. Doc,

    I am glad to say that we have managed to get the help we needed and has been successful in getting treatment since 2003. But this being a new medical condition, its difficult to get financial relief. Most of the GPs we go to do not know of OSA.

  6. I am curious if the Malaysian PM is having this problem. There has been numerous pics of him dozing off in public functions.



    Doctor2008 says: Sorry, Woody. A person’s medical records are confidential and not for public discussion. True, all the main players in the recent US Presidential elections had their medical records released to the public, but this was done so with their consent.
    Regarding your link to ‘necrolepsy’, this is not a known medical condition. The proper term would be ‘narcolepsy’. Its worth noting, though, that this is a different condition from OSA although both conditions cause excessive daytime drowsiness.

  7. Like to apologize for bringing it here, since you are doctor by profession, some statement made here (out in public domain) can be used as “official statement” and probably be used against you .


    Doctor2008 says: No need for apologies! in fact, might do a posting on daytime sleeping soon if time permits. Thanks for the idea.

  8. […] the destination. They were found later  to have suffered from OSA (see my posting at that time here ). But now it appears that in the US, a more common malady has been found that can cause pilots to […]

  9. My husband snores as well. And we are on the journey to locate the best snoring therapy for him.
    But, there are nights where I’ve to go sleep in the other area just to get some rest. Fortunately for us, we are extremely close, because sometimes, snoring can have massive strains on relationships. We’re quite excited
    concerning the chin straps for a snoring remedy. We just ordered them, and we are awaiting their arrival!
    We’ll hold you posted on how they operate. Chin straps are great for open mouth snoring. Since I’ve the capability to observe him even though sings
    his nightly song, I was able to determine that his snoring difficulty was
    from obtaining an open mouth. Should you can observe
    how your companion snores, this can be quite beneficial in figuring out a snoring remedy.
    I cannot wait to go through a evening where he stops snoring.
    It’ll be actually nice to acquire a restful night sleep in the very same area!

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