Recent research shows that sleep apnea doubles the risk of workplace injury, making it more dangerous than other sleep problems. With this increased risk, it’s important for workers who are at risk of harming themselves and others to get sleep apnea treatment.

Linking Accidents and Apnea

Researchers in this study started by recruiting more than 1200 patients who had not previously been diagnosed with sleep apnea that were then referred to a sleep clinic. The patients had a median age of 49, and 70% of them were men. These patients were evaluated for sleep apnea using polysomnography. It turns out that 80% of the patients had an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 5 or greater, indicating that they suffered oxygen shortages at least five times an hour, which is the definition of mild sleep apnea. The median AHI of the patients was 15, which is considered moderate sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can make dangerous work more dangerous.To determine how their sleep apnea might have influenced workplace accidents, researchers then looked at work records for workplace accidents. They found that 111 of the patients had experienced at least one workplace injury that resulted in one day of missed work in the previous five years. Already, this looks like a very high number–nearly 10% of these workers experienced a workplace accident in five years. Analysis later showed how much this was due to sleep apnea.

It turns out that, overall, workers with sleep apnea were 1.9 times more likely to suffer a workplace accident. When the accidents were related to a loss of vigilance (e.g. dozing off or failing to pay attention at work), the risk was even greater. People with sleep apnea were 2.4 times more likely to experience this type of accident, which included falls and car accidents.

Even adding in factors like age, alcohol use, and other confounders didn’t shake this correlation.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Is a Must for Safety

If you are a worker or an employer at a workplace where safety depends on the alertness and vigilance of employees, sleep apnea treatment has to be a part of your overall safety plan. Screening workers for sleep apnea and getting them treated can make a significant impact on workplace safety, which, in turn, helps everyone. Less serious work injuries. Less time lost, and better productivity.

Employers that are concerned about these issues need to talk to a doctor about sleep apnea screening and learn what treatment options have the best effectiveness and compliance rates. To learn more about sleep apnea treatment in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center.