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Study finds sleep disorder may lead to workplace injuries

Pennsylvania workers may be interested in reading about a Canadian study showing how a sleep disorder can have detrimental effects on a person's workday. The study, which was conducted from May 2003 to July 2011 at a British Columbia sleep clinic and involved more than 1,200 patients, found that obstructive sleep apnea increases the likelihood for on-the-job injuries.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which affects about 22 million Americans, is a sleep disorder that repeatedly awakens sufferers out of their nighttime rest when their airways become obstructed. The condition actually collapses the airways, which causes the person to gasp for air, cough or snore. As a result, the brain's usual sleep cycle is severely disrupted, and the person experiences daytime fatigue.

Because those who have the condition do not get a sound sleep, the study found that they were two times more prone to be injured at the job than others were and three times more prone to suffer a vigilance-related injury such as getting burned, falling or tripping. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, most of the people with the disorder are undiagnosed. They repeatedly awake several times each hour, although in many cases, they do not know it. Then, because they feel tired during the day, they are more likely to be injured at the workplace.

Employees injured on the job may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits whether or not they have an underlying medical condition that may have contributed to the accident. The benefits generally include medical treatment and a percentage of wages lost, and an attorney can often be of assistance with the claims filing process.

Source: Reuters, "People with sleep breathing issues more likely to get injured at work", Madeline Kennedy, March 24, 2016

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