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Sleep Apnea: An Occupational Hazzard!

Jun 09, 2023
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Demanding work schedules and long hours can increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration. Accidents and job-related injuries are 30% greater during night and sleep apnea can even double the risk. What's the main factor? Quality of sleep!


Fatigue and lack of energy can severely affect your ability to perform tasks and can make it difficult to think clearly, react quickly, or stay focused.  Not only can this manifest into altered mood and depression, it can affect your job by way of decreased work productivity and an increased risk of injury.

While the effects may be detrimental to YOUR job performance and/or safety, they may also have harmful consequences on the dynamics of the entire office or worksite and could potentially put your coworkers in danger. In fact, some of the most widely-known work disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia explosion were all attributed to work-related fatigue.

If you find yourself waking up every morning feeling like didn’t sleep a wink and it’s impossible to get out of bed for work you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.  Even though you may have slept the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep, the feeling of physical weakness could mean that the quality of sleep that you are getting you are getting is insufficient.

Pumping coffee, tea, energy drinks, or other caffeine products may help for a while, but you know eventually they will wear off and leave you with that post-morning or mid-afternoon crashing feeling and you feel like you need a nap!

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), fatigue is a growing problem affecting the workforce. Research estimates that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, and 43% of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work.

A report from the NSC on the prevalence of fatigue in the American workforce, Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue, breaks down a probability-based survey of more than 2,000 working adults and their experience with fatigue.

The report shows that 97% of workers have at least one workplace fatigue risk factor and more than 80% have two or more. When multiple risk factors are present, the potential for injuries on the job increases.


Causes of fatigue can be job-related, personal, physiological, or a combination. They can result from a disorder, behavior, or short-term activity that disrupts sleep or accumulates over time.

Some examples include:

  • poor sleep hygiene, such as an inconsistent sleep schedule, consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or heavy meals before bedtime, and the use of electronic devices at bedtime.
  • sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), insomnia, narcolepsy, and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)  
  • lengthy or intense mental or physical activity
  • workplace changes
  • travel
  • abnormally hot or cold working environments
  • work schedules such as long shifts or lack of recovery time between shifts


Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to promote good sleep habits and better sleep hygiene.  However, if you have a sleep disorder, the solutions are a little more complicated. 

If your sleep routine needs an overhaul, the best and quickest remedies would be to implement the following:

  • go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day
  • make your sleeping environment as quiet and dark as possible
  • don't watch TV or use electronics before bed
  • avoid napping during the day
  • try meditating to clear your head of thoughts that weigh on you
  • eat a healthy diet, exercise, and lose weight, if needed
  • get a comfortable mattress
  • keep pets out of your bed
  • change bedtime eating or drinking behavior
  • make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep  


If you suffer from a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, insomnia, or restless leg syndrome, seeking treatment from a physician may be your only solution.  In most cases, it requires a trip to your doctor to make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms and sleep history, and then you will most likely be referred to a sleep disorder center.  A sleep specialist can help you determine your need for further evaluation, which often involves overnight monitoring at a sleep center or a home sleep test to measure your breathing and other body functions during sleep. 

If your diagnosis confirms the presence of OSA -- particularly moderate to severe-- you are advised to seek treatment from a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask that directs a steady stream of air into your airway while you sleep.

When CPAP is not an option, or you prefer a different approach, a qualified sleep dentist can fit you with a custom-made oral appliance as a comparable alternative. These devices are worn in your mouth while you sleep to move the jaw slightly in a forward position during sleep to keep the upper airway open.  They can treat apnea, reduce snoring,  and prevent teeth grinding, or bruxism – which commonly occurs in people with sleep apnea.  Oral appliances are non-invasive, comfortable to wear, and the cost is covered by most medical insurance plans. 

No matter what issue or situation is causing your fatigue, treating it can have a lasting effect on your overall health and well-being.  A chronically fatigued individual may not only have negatively affected work performance and an increased risk of injury on the job, but they are also likely to become more susceptible to health problems like cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. 

If you think that your fatigue is more serious and normal behavior changes are not helping, be sure to contact your doctor for a complete evaluation and call us anytime to learn how oral appliance therapy may be the best treatment option for you. 

Sleep Dentist, Dr. Becky Fox at Pennsylvania Dental Sleep Medicine, is always available to help treat individuals who are affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Chronic Snoring, and Teeth Grinding, (Bruxism).  If you, or anyone you know, is ready for a solution to being tired all of the time contact us on our website or call our office at (717)294-0482.

Quality sleep means quality life!