Sleep Apnea - Costs, Risks and Solutions
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition characterized by the soft tissues around the airway relaxing during sleep to the point of partially or completely obstructing the airway, thus causing a temporary cessation in breathing. The obstructions lead to frequent wake-ups during which the sufferer gasps for breath, resulting in disrupted sleep and chronic exhaustion during waking hours.
OSA is a common sleep disorder found in approximately 5% of the general work population but is more than twice as prevalent among shift workers at 11.6%. This increase may be due to the higher presence of certain risk factors found in the shift working population, including smoking, obesity, having a neck size of 17 inches or greater, the regular use of alcohol or sleeping pills, and moderate sleep deprivation. This high prevalence of OSA is especially troublesome, considering the safety risks it imposes and the safety-critical nature of many extended hours occupations. Due to interrupted sleep patterns, apnea sufferers experience twice as many traffic accidents per mile and have a threefold risk of occupational accidents.
Though apnea is a highly disruptive and risky disorder in its unmanaged state, the costs of accidents and health problems are mitigated when the OSA sufferer receives simple treatment to correct the airway obstruction during sleep. However, in order to receive this non-invasive, corrective treatment, the sufferer needs to know that he or she has OSA in the first place. Up to 95% of people diagnosed with OSA thought that they just had a snoring or fatigue problem, causing sleep specialists to suggest that high-risk groups should be educated and screened.
The good news is that OSA is treatable through general measures such as weight loss and smoking cessation, and through the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a simple and comfortable device worn at night that regulates airflow during sleep, preventing nighttime blockages.
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Source: Excerpted from CIRCADIAN’s 2003 white paper, “Reducing the Costs, Risks, and Liabilities of Sleep Apnea; Kerin K. and Aguirre A.