People who suffer from difficulty breathing during sleep are in danger of becoming injured on the job, new research suggests. According to the results of a study published in Thorax, people with sleep apnea are at great risk for occupational injuries and decreased concentration. This startling study tells us that lack of sleep caused by breathing problems is a health concern that should not be treated as a trivial issue.
Canadian scientists made the connection. Najib Ayas from the Department of Medicine at University British Columbia, led a research team which sought to ascertain whether people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) were more likely to suffer from occupational injury (OI).
To find the answer, Ayas et al recruited 1236 patients from the University of British Columbia Hospital Sleep Laboratory whom were believed to be suffering from OSA between May 2003 to July 2011.
The research team had information about the types and rates of occupational injuries of the patients during the five years prior to undergoing polysomnography, a special sleep test.
Ayas et al discovered that sleep apnea patients were twice as likely to suffer at least one occupational injury than patients who did not suffer from sleep apnea. When the team investigated further, they learned that OSA patients were three times more likely to suffer from an injury that is more likely to be tied to lack of paying attention (e.g. commercial motor vehicle crash or fall).
These results tell us something about the problems associated with lack of sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is disorder wherein some physical object prevents the person from breathing. The disorder is so common that the National Institutes of Health estimate that every 4 out of 100 middle-aged men and every 2 out of every 100 middle-aged women suffer from OSA with symptoms.
People over age 45 years are more likely to develop OSA. Other health issues that increase the chances of developing OSA include:
- decreased muscle tone
- enlarged tonsils or tongue
- small jaw
- small soft palate
According to the NIH, symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include the following:
- frequent urination
- night sweats
- suddenly waking up, often times with a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath
- dry mouth when waking up
- headaches in the morning
- exhaustion during the day
- difficulty concentrating
Getting back to the current study, Ayas et al found that OSA patients were nearly three times more likely to become involved in accidents involving a lack of vigilance.
If you don't get sufficient sleep, you're less likely to pay attention to what's going on around you. But it's also possible that you won't even hear danger approaching.
Interestingly, some years ago Taiwanese scientists noted an association between sudden deafness and sleep apnea. In that study, researchers discovered that men who experienced sudden hearing loss were more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than healthy men.
If OSA patients happen to suffer from impaired hearing, it may increase the likelihood that they will become involved in work related accidents.
Sleep apnea is also associated with obesity which itself is often associated with diabetes.
Lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance. When this occurs, cells will ignore signals take up sugar, which will eventually cause blood sugar levels to rise. Elevated blood sugar levels can trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar causes cellular metabolism to slow down (the sugar isn't getting into the cells to be used for energy) thereby causing weight gain.
At this point in the article, you now know that OSA is a physical obstruction of the airways. Now, think about something. Excess fat weighing down on the windpipe will cause breathing problems. I hope that you can see the connection.
Obstructive sleep apnea also increases risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke and even depression.
NIH says numerous options are available for the treatment of OSA including mouth guards, surgery as well as special machines that facilitate sleep. But the first treatment they suggest is weight loss.
Considering the seriousness of OSA, is this a problem to be ignored?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened." 1 Peter 3:14
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Hirsch Allen AJ, Park JE, Daniele PR, Fleetham J, Ryan CF, & Ayas NT (2016). Obstructive sleep apnoea and frequency of occupational injury. Thorax PMID: 26980010
"People With Sleep Apnea More Prone To Get Hurt At Work" copyright © 2016 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.