Healthy Living

Sleep Apnea and its Influence on Fatigue in the Workplace

Sleep Apnea and its Influence on Fatigue in the Workplace

Everyone is different. When comparing two individuals side by side, they are seldom identical, even in the way they react to the same stimuli. Even if they live together, it is common to observe that roommates, couples, or those who share a close relationship can respond differently to same situations. In this manner, it is not rare to observe that said differences can extend to each person’s endurance and ability to get a good night’s sleep, even after only a few hours of rest. However, when it comes to sleep apnea, even if the person is the heaviest sleeper and can fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, it is almost a certainty that they will not reap the benefits of a full night’s sleep, even after resting for more than 8 hours.

How Sleep Apnea can be a Problem at Work 

This problem is compounded when considering that sleep apnea is a considerable risk factor towards workplace accidents and injuries. Due to symptoms such as drowsiness, diminished reaction time, and decreased workplace performance, sleep apnea has been reported to be the cause of over 13% of all workplace injuries, which is a high number that makes the disease well worth investigating and preventing.

Fortunately, there are already organizations hard at work to raise awareness for the disease, and promoting employers and businesses to consider covering treatment for employees who suffer from sleep apnea in order to prevent the number of workplace injuries and to improve the quality of life of workers that may be suffering from the disease without even being aware of it.

Aeroflow Healthcare Inc. is one of such organizations, which has taken it upon themselves to perform the screening and treatment of sleep apnea among the workers of interested business. Currently, Aeroflow is mostly working in the trucking industry, assisting truck drivers that may suffer from sleep apnea to help them receive long, restorative sleep during their time off in order to reduce the risk of accidents of fatal injuries behind the wheel.

What to Know About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition which is characterized by the person’s inability to breathe properly during sleep, causing extreme daytime fatigue in the person and severely limiting their performance during their waking hours. A person that suffers from this disease is commonly observed to be very tired during the day and, those that manage to watch the said person while they sleep will observe excessive snoring coupled with episodes during which the person ceases breathing for up to 30 seconds at a time. Said episodes can happen upward to 30 times in a single night and are usually comprised of normal breathing, followed by the sudden stop in the person’s respiration and the subsequent struggle to fill their lungs with air. The episode usually ends with the person recovering with a huge snore which can sometimes wake them up. These snoring and waking periods, however, are usually very short-lived to the point where the person seldom realizes they actually wake up. As a result, the individual wakes up in the morning feeling fatigued, weary, and lethargic, just as if he or she had gone through a session of intense brainstorming. In other words, they would mentally and physically exhausted, even after a full night of rest, which can directly affect how they will perform at work.

These episodes of breathlessness during the person’s sleep are caused by the collapsing of their airway, which in turn can be brought about by excess fat in his or her neck, making obesity one of the biggest risk factors for this disease. Another factor which can contribute to the onset of this condition, and which is truly out of the person’s control, is genetics. If a person has a family member that suffers from excessive snoring or a formally-diagnosed sleep apnea, then they too will have increased odds of suffering from the very same condition. Regardless, the disease affects both male and female genders without discrimination and can manifest at any point in their lives. Though the disease is more common as the person reaches his or her senior years, it is not uncommon to observe it in children or infants.

Furthermore, when ruling out both genetics and obesity, sleep apnea can also be caused by inflammation of the tonsils or adenoids — especially in children — which can engorge to the point of partially or completely obstructing the airway, causing sleep apnea. Those that suffer from this type of sleep apnea can opt to undergo a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy to remove the culprit structures and to nip the source of sleep apnea right in the bud. However, the people who suffer from ‘traditional’ variations of apnea or hypopnea may find the solutions in the form of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that consists of a mask which, as its name suggests, continuously blows oxygen into the patient’s airway during sleep to avoid his or her airway from collapsing and bring about episodes of apnea. While the masks can take some getting used to, they are the most effective way of combating the condition, with users feeling improvements as fast as during the first week of use. Furthermore, those who struggle with getting accustomed to the mask can be issued different variations of them until they find one they feel comfortable.

Nevertheless, despite already having the solution to sleep apnea close at hand, the problem with this disease doesn’t stem from its treatment. Instead, the main issue with sleep apnea lies in its difficulty to properly identify and diagnose the disease. People who live by themselves, in particular, will have trouble actually knowing that there’s something wrong with them, as the episodes of apnea can seldom be identified by the person since they happen while they are asleep. Furthermore, episodes that usually end with the person waking up are so short, that they don’t register in memory. In consequence, the individual that suffers from sleep apnea will not know that there’s actually something wrong with them; they will only feel tired after waking up and experience excessive sleepiness during the day.

Hope for the Future

Luckily the tendency to cover screening and treatment for sleep apnea is spreading to other industries. This means that, in the future, many workers who suffer from sleep apnea will be able to benefit from the long, healthy sleep sessions that comes from the treatment of the disease.