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Everything You Ought To Know About Sleep Apnea

It’s well known that chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes can be very costly for companies. What if we told you to add snoring to the list? You should. Snoring is one of the major warning signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – a very common sleep disorder that is a contributing factor to many health conditions. It affects over 858,000 adults in Canada. [1]

OSA is characterized by a collapse in the upper airways that prevents air from getting into the lungs. This causes blood oxygen levels to drop and the brain to react, waking the person up enough to start breathing again. It can happen several times through the night and can leave one feeling chronically tired and lethargic. For employers, this means lower productivity, lost work days, and a serious safety risk. Here are a few other things you should know:

Sleep apnea is a compounding problem

OSA contributes to obesity. Even people who exercise are not getting the results they want if their sleep is disrupted. In addition to weight gain, OSA can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heartburn at night, decreased libido or impotence, and depression. Studies show OSA is associated with an increased risk of sickness absence and disability pension, and researchers emphasize the need for employers to identify workers with this disorder. [2]

Sleep apnea is treatable

Screening tools can assess if your workers are at risk for sleep apnea. A sleep study determines if the worker does suffer from the disorder, and once the diagnosis is made, they can start treatment. The most common treatment is positive airway pressure. This prevents blockage in the upper airways, making it easier to breathe.

Addressing sleep apnea will save you in the long run

Treating your workers can improve their health, significantly reduce safety risks, and lower your costs. A study of Waste Management workers that compared treated drivers to non-treated drivers found that treated drivers had lower total health plan costs, fewer missed work days because of short-term disability, and a lower rate of short-term disability claims. The sleep apnea program cost $3,000 per worker but saved the company $6,000 per worker over two years in health plan and disability costs.

Knowing the prevalence of sleep apnea and the potential it has to become a costly issue for your workers and your company is the first step. Now it’s time to find out who at your workplace could be suffering from it.

Here at DriverCheck, we can provide education on the importance of getting tested and determine who is at risk. Our program also involves policy development, sleep apnea diagnosis, treatment, and coaching/compliance monitoring. If you would like to know more about this disorder or how to get started with your sleep apnea program, get in touch with us!

[1] Public Health Agency of Canada. (2010). Fast Facts from the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey—Sleep Apnea Rapid Response.

[2] Sjosten  N,  Kivimaki  M,  Oksanen  T,  et  al. Obstructive  sleep  apnoea  syndrome  as  a predictor  of  work  disability.  Respiratory medicine. Jul 2009;103(7):1047-1055.