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The link between sleep and workplace injuries

A study of more than 1,200 people who were screened for obstructive sleep apnea at British Columbia sleep clinic has shed some light on the link between sleep and workplace injuries, and it may be of interest to North Carolina workers as well as their employers. The patients were screened from May of 2003 and July 2011, and the researchers found that those who had sleep apnea were twice as likely to get hurt at work compared to those who did not.

Of the 994 who were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, 111 had gotten hurt at work within the previous five years. That was 9 percent of the group while only 5 percent of the 242 who were not diagnosed had gotten hurt at work during that period. Even after controlling for factors such as age, gender and alcohol consumption those with sleep apnea were 76 percent more likely to get injured on the job.

Researchers believe that the increased injury risk is related to daytime drowsiness caused by a lack of quality sleep. When a person has sleep apnea, it is equivalent to be woken up several times a night. In many cases, people with the condition are unaware that they wake up Sleep apnea also causes people to stop breathing, which can also interfere with quality sleep.

In most cases, workers' compensation benefits are available even if a person is injured in a workplace accident due to a preexisting condition. However, the likelihood that the employer or its insurer may try to deny the claim could be higher in such an event, which may make it advisable for the injured victim to have the assistance of an attorney throughout the process.

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