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Workplace injuries higher among sleep apnea sufferers

South Carolina residents who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea may be far more likely to be injured in a workplace accident according to a Canadian study. Sufferers of the sleeping disorder are sometimes awoken several times during the night as their airways collapse and their breathing ceases, and this can lead to elevated fatigue levels at work. Sleep disorder experts say that most of the 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea may not know that they have the condition.

The Canadian researchers studied the cases of 1,236 patients who were screened for obstructive sleep apnea at a hospital in British Columbia between 2003 and 2011. The researchers say that 994 of the patients studied were found to be suffering from the condition. When the work accident history of the affected patients was studied, researchers found that they suffered on-the-job injuries at about twice the rate of other workers. The number of injuries connected with reduced levels of vigilance were found to be three times higher.

The findings add to the growing amount of data linking obstructive sleep apnea with elevated accident and injury risks. Another study released in March 2016 found that commercial truck drivers suffering from the condition were about five times more likely to be involved in fatigue-related accidents, and research also indicates that sufferers with more severe cases have even higher risks.

Workers' compensation benefits can help those injured on the job to cope financially until they are able to return to work. While establishing liability may be important in civil litigation, workers' compensation panels seek only to determine if injuries or illnesses are work-related. Attorneys with experience in these cases may assist injured workers by advocating on their behalf during workers' compensation hearings and reviewing their claims to ensure that they are applying for all of the benefits they qualify for.

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