How To Screen Sleep Apnea in the Workplace (Plus, 6 Key Sleep Apnea Machines & Mouthguards)

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Source: cherrybeans

Some of your employees may be living with sleep apnea, and it affects energy, job performance and overall happiness. With these recommended devices you can help them get control back into their work lives and increase safety and productivity.

Would you be surprised to learn that there’s a reported 22 million Americans living with sleep apnea? It’s a life-altering disease and living with sleep apnea, especially when left untreated, severely affects energy, job performance and overall happiness...not to mention safety for those working in high-risk job fields.

As your employees sleep quality suffers, so do they, and as a result the company suffers, too. The health risks associated with sleep apnea are serious:

  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Stroke
  • And more

The good news is that there are sleep apnea treatments and services available to your team to help them get control back into their lives. (Read 5 Treatments for Employees Suffering From Sleep Apnea.)

But before you can recommend treatment options after proper diagnosis from a certified physician, it’s a good idea to fully understand what’s going on with those staff members when their deep sleep is interrupted.

Understanding Sleep Apnea and How To Screen For Sleep Apnea in the Workplace

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea basically means that your deep sleep is broken because of lapses in your breathing. Some people may suffer from a few seconds of non-breathing patterns while others can go as long as a minute.

How can you screen for signs of sleep apnea?

Some easy telltale signs are a constant feeling of tiredness, experiencing an inability to concentrate on commonplace tasks at work, and constant forgetfulness.

If these seem like familiar signs you should advise those employees to consult with their physician and begin the diagnoses process immediately.

Those who work in safety-sensitive positions could really hurt themselves or others if left untreated. Can you imagine the dangers a drowsy employee behind the wheel of a moving forklift presents? That could be catastrophic or worse, deadly.

What Happens During a Sleep Apnea Diagnosis?

You can let them know that a doctor will likely ask for reported symptoms and sleep histories, which they can get with some help from their spouse or loved ones who live the same household/share a bed.

If the doctor feels like they are a likely candidate then they will refer them to a sleep specialist who will perform certified tests and evaluations to get the right diagnosis.

What Types of Sleep Apnea Tests Are Available?

Nocturnal Polysomnography

This test will monitor major organs like the heart, lungs, and brain to determine what’s going on while during a sleep cycle as some people show signs of excessive arm/leg movements, odd brain activity and breathing patterns, plus blood oxygen levels are studied, as well.

This polysomnography happens while resting as the monitoring equipment studies all sleep patterns.

At-Home Sleep Tests

These at-home sleep apnea tests may be preferred because most people tend to feel comfortable at home and are able to properly relax. They’re simplified versions of the nocturnal polysomnography that also measure heart rates, blood oxygen levels, plus airflows and specific breathing patterns.

Keep in mind, these at-home tests aren’t always able to pinpoint all forms of sleep apnea so a trip to the sleep center for nocturnal polysomnography may still be advised.

What Types of Sleep Apnea Exist?

Now that we know how to screen for sleep apnea and the different tests available, we should discuss the three different types of sleep apnea that can be diagnosed.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA happens when there’s a complete airway blockage in the throat caused by disproportionate soft tissue muscles, a narrow neck, mandibular/maxillary abnormalities and obesity.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

CSA is a serious medical issue caused by a brain dysfunction that stops muscle signals from being sent out, and in worst-case scenarios people who suffer from CSA are at risk of heart failure, stroke and diabetes.

Complex Sleep ApneaSyndrome

Complex sleep apnea syndrome is when someone suffers from a combination of both OSA and CSA.

If someone from your team is diagnosed with sleep apnea by a physician, they’ll likely be prescribed to use a continuous positive-airway pressure (CPAP) machine or an Airway Pressure Device (APAP) while they sleep.

Understanding CPAP and APAP Sleep Apnea Machines

What does a CPAP machine do?

A CPAP device delivers oxygen to the airway during sleep so the air passage remains open. What turns some people away from choosing a CPAP machine is that the airway pressure can’t be modified and the set pressure is determined only after they’ve been studied by a technician.

What does an APAP machine do?

Unlike a CPAP device, an APAP machine automatically changes the amount of airway pressure needed whenever breathing patterns change. An APAP device will save time, too, because sufferers won’t have to keep going to sleep studies or need a technician’s assistance.

What Should I Tell My Team to Consider When Choosing a Sleep Apnea Machine?

Make sure to choose the right CPAP mask size

Everyone has a specific face shape so what works for one person might not be the best fit for everyone’s face.

Make sure to choose the correct CPAP mask style

Some styles come with straps that stretch across the forehead and cheeks and will cover the mouth and nose, which might sound like a nightmare to some of us.

Other types of CPAP masks have nasal pillows that fit snugly under the nose and have straps that’ll cover less of the facial area.

Go into this knowing it’ll take time to adjust to wearing a mask while sleeping

Get a head start and wear it while doing normal things like watching TV or reading, even try turning it on while awake too to know what to expect.

Forced air is no joke

It’s unnatural to have forced air pushed down the throat and some people might have trouble falling asleep because of this sensation so look out for a model that has a ramp feature that allows for a low air-pressure setting and gradually increases as deep sleep is back into a typical sleep cycle.

They might feel claustrophobic

The best way to overcome this is to simply get used to wearing the mask. Wear it in steps, like try holding it in place, then with the straps on, and then practice with it powered on and maybe take some short naps until a full night with it fully operational is possible.

Does the company’s benefits program cover sleep apnea costs?

Some providers do provide financial assistance with sleep apnea products, but it would be best to consult with yours to determine everything that is covered and what isn’t.

What We’ve Learned

Basically, there are many pros and cons to consider for each style of sleep apnea machines and they’ll affect everyone differently. What’s important is to do what’s best for your employees and help them understand what works best for their individual needs and what doesn’t.

Just because they’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, this doesn’t mean it has to control their lives. Be patient with your team if they’re showing signs of untreated sleep apnea, and take the necessary steps in order to get the best health and safety out of your employees.



DeVilbiss-Healthcare IntelliPAP AutoAdjust CPAP Machine with Heated Humidifier (DV54D-HH)

This is the next generation Auto CPAP machine by Devilbiss. This unit is backed by a 5 Year warranty, the most among any cpap machine. The IntelliPAP AutoAdjust System has the smallest surface of all leading CPAP devices with heated humidification system attached  and comes equipped with all the necessities for use during travel or at home.  

The eight-foot power cord length provides greater positioning flexibility - no bulky power brick on cord.  Now with the new SmartFlex built in, the AutoAdjust provides exhalation relief along with smooth, transitioning pressure when needed. It is one of the quietest machines on the market (26dba) and with SmartCode, the IntelliPAP can generate therapy reports through the Internet.

CPAP Features: 

  • AutoAdjust technology ensures that you have the optimum pressure for your therapy throughout the night by continuously adjusting the pressure to match your needs 
  • Quietest auto CPAP among top-selling devices - only 26 dBA
  • Eight-foot power cord length provides greater positioning flexibility - no bulky power brick on cord
  • Large, backlit LCD and easy-to-follow patient menu
  • Auto ON/OFF function
  • Extra air inlet and fine particle filter included
  • Large, slip-resistant pads on bottom of unit to minimize movement on night table during the night
  • Longest warranty available on any CPAP machine (5 Years)

Philips Respironics DreamStation Auto CPAP with humidifier and heated tube

The DreamStation is designed to fulfill the needs of all CPAP users who demand the best from their therapy.  The stylish, modular design was derived from both consumer insights and clinical know-how giving the user the benefits of each.  Being 18% smaller with a smaller footprint takes up significantly less room on the nightstand.  At 28% lighter, traveling with the unit, especially without the optional humidifier, is a breeze.

ResMed S9 Elite™ CPAP Machine with H5i™ Humidifier and ClimateLine™

The S9 Elite™ is ResMed’s premium CPAP device designed to help patients comfortably adjust to therapy and to encourage long-term use.

Featuring a sleek design, user-friendly interface and whisper-quiet operation, the S9 Elite helps your patients stay on track with their day-to-day therapy.

S9 Elite offers high resolution flow data (via an SD card) and central sleep apnea (CSA) detection, offering you advanced insights into patient compliance and treatment information.

Petask 3-in-1 Versatility Custom Fit Mouth Guards

  • VERSATILITY MOUTH GUARDS: These mouth guards are designed with a middle airflow hole to allow you breathe comfortably by mouth! Relief teeth grinding, bruxism.
  • CUSTOMIZED FIT AND EASY TO USE: Thickness is only 0.08" (2mm), fits most of all mouth and can be molded to different mouth shapes alignments and teeth sizes.
  • APPROVED BY DENTISTS: Made from medium density BPA and Latex free grade material - Same material used by dentists.
  • MULTI-USE MOUTH GUARDS: Petask 3 in 1 Versatility teeth protectors can be used as teeth grinding night guards, athletic mouth guards, and whitening tray.

SnoreRx Mouthguards

SnoreRx design features a thermal matrix material that enables each user to personalize their device with a custom impression. The custom impression process is a simple step by step process that can be done in the comfort of your home.

VitalSleep Stop-Snoring Products

If it weren't for the damaging effects of snoring, there would be many happier, healthier couples among us today. That’s why VitalSleep anti-snoring products are available in two sizes — to relieve your snoring so you and your partner can enjoy deep restorative sleep. 

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