Sleep Apnea and Long Term Disability

How Sleep Apnea Affects You

Sleep apnea is a disability that causes you to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep. In a standard six to eight hour period of sleep, one with sleep apnea will periodically stop breathing, as long as up to a minute at a time.

Breathing will start again after a while, and may be accompanied by a loud noise (snoring).

Cause of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea may be caused when the air passages are blocked, which may be due to a collapse in tissue in the back of the throat.

Effect of Sleep Apnea

The body is deprived of oxygen while the brain tries to get air flowing again. The sleeper may have shallow sleep, waking up feeling unrefreshed.

Because the quality of sleep is drastically reduced and because the individual may have awakened numerous times throughout the night, those suffering from sleep apnea may still feel tired despite a full night’s sleep. As a result, the individual may fall asleep during waking hours because he or she did not get sufficient rest due to the sleep apnea.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three major types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea. This is the most common. Muscles in the back of the throat will relax and block the air passage.
  • Central sleep apnea. With this type of sleep apnea, the brain stops sending messages to breathe while sleeping. This type usually results from illness.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome. This is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apneas.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Two of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring and feeling tired after a night of sleep. Snoring can obviously interfere with relationships. Sleep apnea has been known to cause lost productivity at work, workplace accidents, and traffic and automobile accidents.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea include shortness of breath, insomnia and a headache after waking. Many people suffer from the symptoms of sleep apnea for many years, and some experience them for life. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million U.S. citizens.

Other Effects of Sleep Apnea

If left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to causing other medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and weight gain.

Sleep Apnea and Long Term Disability Benefits

Some individuals with sleep apnea may qualify for Long Term Disability benefits due to a reduced Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC.

You can quantify your RFC for the insurance company by asking your doctor to fill out an Attending Physician Statement (APS) form or RFC.

The answers on an APS or RFC form will help establish that you are not able to work due to your sleep apnea, its symptoms, and the effects of those symptoms in your life.

For example, those who suffer from sleep apnea may show up to work more tired than other employees and will therefore have a higher risk of mistakes and incidents. This type of fatigue should be taken into consideration when filling out the form.

Sleep apnea could especially affect those who work in the transportation field, such as truck and bus drivers, as well as with train conductors and others who need to be alert to transport people and items safely.

Establishing a Claim For Sleep Apnea

As with any diagnosis, it is important to establish an actual diagnosis of sleep apnea in a claim for long term disability benefits. To diagnose sleep apnea, for example, your doctor may give you a polysomnogram, which is a sleep study that will transmit details regarding breathing patterns and other information while you sleep.

Appealing a Denial for Disability Benefits

If you have a severe case of sleep apnea and a long term disability insurance company has denied your claim for benefits, you should contact us at 850-308-7833 to discuss your legal rights.