Patients with sleep disorders may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their sleep disorder may qualify for long term disability (LTD) benefits. The insurance company will review their claim to see if they qualify under the conditions of that plan.
What are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders cause problems while a person is sleeping or trying to sleep. A common breathing disorder during sleep is sleep apnea. An individual with sleep apnea can actually stop breathing for as long as one or two minutes and may do so dozens or even hundreds of times per night. This stoppage of breathing results in broken sleep and all of the other problems associated with a lack of sleep. Most significantly, the lack of breathing can lead to hypoxemia, which is the lack of oxygen in the arterial blood.
The lack of oxygen in the blood can itself affect many of the body’s other functions. The most directly affected are the body’s lungs and heart. However, virtually all physical and most mental functions rely on the adequate transfer of oxygen from the blood stream. Thus, sleep related breathing disorders have far reaching consequences.
Some common work-related symptoms and results effects of sleep disorders include:
- Daytime fatigue/sleepiness;
- Memory loss or dysfunction;
- Disturbance of other cognitive abilities due to fatigue;
- Negative effects on the patient’s personality; and
Causes of Sleep Disorders
An actual physical blockage of airflow typically causes breathing-related sleep disorders. Another cause of sleep disorders is psychological in nature; for example, mental stress is a major component of an insomnia disorder.
Types of Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. Insomnia affects nearly 60 percent of adults at least one night each week. Common symptoms of insomnia include trouble going to sleep and waking before it is time to wake up. Many factors contribute to insomnia, which includes stress and other underlying medical conditions. Typical medical treatment of insomnia includes sleeping pills and behavior therapy. Practicing good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time each night, can often be effective for treating mild cases of insomnia.
Sleep apnea is the second most common sleep disorder. Sleep apnea affects approximately 20 million Americans each year. As stated above, this disorder causes people to stop breathing suddenly while they are asleep. During this brief period where the individual is not breathing, carbon dioxide builds up in the blood and the sleeper wakes up suddenly to gasp for breath. The length of time that the individual stops breathing may vary from a few seconds to so long that the individual’s skin actually turns blue from the lack of oxygen.
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that causes periods of intense sleepiness during the daytime. Those suffering from narcolepsy often experience brief periods of overwhelming sleepiness and may even fall asleep for short periods of time during the day. These sleeping periods may last from just a few seconds to several minutes. In some cases, an individual’s sleep may last up to an hour or more. Those with narcolepsy have been known to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation, while eating a meal or even while driving a motor vehicle.
In addition to sleepiness, narcolepsy may be accompanied by cataplexy, which involves the sudden loss of muscle tone and control. Cataplexy events can last from several seconds to several minutes. Other symptoms include hallucinations and paralysis during one’s sleep.
Sleepwalking and Night Terrors
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is characterized is when one gets out of bed while asleep.
Night terrors can affect people of any age. Typical symptoms include excessive sweating, shaking and obvious fear.
Chronic Cor Pulmonale
Chronic Cor Pulmonale involves the obstruction of blood flow from the right side of the heart into the lungs. It is a common, medically verifiable and measurable breathing disorder caused by the lack of oxygenation in the blood.
Organic Mental Disorders
The cause of breathing cessation during sleep may be entirely or partially due to organic mental disorders.
Sleep related breathing disorders can be treated. The more effective treatment methods include surgery and the use of constant positive air pressure (CPAP) masks while sleeping. Surgery may remove obstructing tissue in order to ensure that the breathing airway remains clear and open. A CPAP machine keeps the airway open by using a constant stream of positive air pressure blown into the airway (usually through the nose).
Filing for Long Term Disability Benefits with a Sleep Related Breathing Disorders Diagnosis
Regardless of the cause of your sleep disorder, it is important that you follow all treatment regimens prescribed for you. You will need thorough documentation of all attempts to treat your sleep disorder, along with the results, in order to qualify for long term disability benefits.
Take a claim involving cor pulmonale, for example. You will need to show that cor pulmonale has occurred and is irreversible. This can be shown using medical imaging tests, spirometry tests (which measures lung capacity and breathing), or a heart catheterization. The more medical evidence of the limitations and effects of your disabling condition, the better you will be able to make a case for long term disability benefits.
To qualify for disability based on the mental effects (or causes) of sleep disorders, you should show evidence of your mental heath care and follow all treatments prescribed by such providers.
Your Sleep Related Breathing Disorder Disability Case
The process of applying for disability benefits can be a long and difficult one. All too often, after spending several months during the application process, claimants are denied and faced with the choice of whether or not to pursue the matter through the appeals process.
Working with an experienced disability attorney will give you the best chance of getting the benefits you deserve for your sleep disorder. Even if you have been denied benefits, that does not mean your fight is over. Many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. You have the right to file an appeal and try to get more information that may help your case. Getting expert help is often the difference between being denied and being approved for benefits.
While the process can be daunting, your experienced disability attorney will be able to guide you through the process. They do not get paid until you win your case. You can seek help without worrying about upfront costs or unexpected bills.
The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States. If you would like to talk to an experienced disability lawyer about your sleep disorder and its impact on your ability to work, call us at (888) 321-8131. We would be happy to evaluate your case and to discuss how to help you through the appeal process.