As if there weren’t enough health reasons to justify getting treatment for sleep apnoea ... there is now evidence that it leads to higher health care expenditures and lower productivity rates in the workforce. These findings were presented recently at the 2012 American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) conference.
According to the authors of the report, employers who screen their workers and help with their treatment will be rewarded by vast improvements in worker productivity and lower health care costs.
“Sleep apnea has a serious impact on health, safety, and quality of life”, said Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute’s Dr. Dan Naim. “Although sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder which can lead to or worsen chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, it is under-diagnosed,” said Dr. Naim. “Up to 90 percent of those afflicted with sleep apnea don’t know they have it and don’t remember waking up to gasp for air in the middle of the night, even if it happens dozens of times.”
ASAA Executive Director Edward Grandi pointed out that, apart from the health risks, the economic costs of sleep apnea are huge. Recent research from Harvard Medical School’s Sleep Medicine Division estimates there are between $67 billion and $165 billion in annual costs directly related to sleep apnoea. This figure relates to the USA alone. The estimates include money lost from decreased productivity, traffic accidents related to fatigue, and health care expenditures.
The cost of diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is small when compared with the overall estimated economic burden of the disease. Harvard’s estimated cost to diagnose and treat moderate to severe OSA is estimated to be somewhere between $2 billion and $10 billion per year, again only in the US.
“Employers should view the cost of diagnosing and treating OSA as an investment that will produce significant savings in health insurance spending and significant increases in employee productivity. Moreover, it will enhance the safety and general well-being of the workforce,” said Grandi. “The consequences of untreated OSA can be subtle, like people showing up to work fatigued and being unproductive, or really dramatic, like truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel and killing people, which results in multimillion dollar lawsuits.”
Grandi recommended that employers begin a screening program for their workers, particularly in those professions in which there is a high prevalence of sleep apnoea, such as trucking. Truck drivers are considered to be at a higher risk compared to the rest of the population because many drivers are middle-aged males working odd hours, making them even more likely to be sleepy. Those considered at the highest risk of sleep apnoea development are male, over age 40, and obese, although anyone can have the disorder, including children.
If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, the solution starts with a diagnostic sleep study (polysomnogram). Using modern, portable diagnostic technology, this can now be done in the privacy, comfort and convenience of the patient’s own home – much cheaper and usually much sooner than would be the case if the study was being performed in a sleep lab or hospital based clinical environment. For more information about getting a sleep study, click the button below or call 1300 246 637 to speak with a friendly sleep therapist. Don’t delay, we’re here to help – and your apnoea is getting worse all the time.