When measuring risk factors related to collisions, sleepiness is equivalent to alcohol intoxication, said Jeffrey Durmer, M.D., Ph.D., during his presentation to attendees at the February conference of the Direct Delivery Leadership Council in Atlanta. “More than 80 percent of people with sleep disorders, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), do not know they have a chronic problem.”

Studies cited during the presentation showed that undiagnosed employees with OSA are almost three times as likely to cause a workplace accident—including vehicle collisions. In addition, untreated sleep issues can also damage the employee’s health. “OSA is a silent killer,” said Dr. Durmer, who noted the prevalence of OSA in chronic diseases: Seventy percent of patients who have atrial fibrillation
also have OSA, as do 72 percent of people with type II diabetes and 70 percent of people who have had strokes or TIAs.

As a result, employees with OSA take almost 2.5 times the number of sick days as other employees and are more than twice as likely to take an extended disability leave. In addition, these sleep-deficient employees have been judged to be 50 percent less productive than their counterparts.

After one night of insufficient sleep, we begin to lose hormonal appetite regulation, and toxic waste products build in the brain, Dr. Durmer pointed out. If these conditions are not corrected, chronic diseases accelerate, and mortality risk increases four fold.

Are there solutions? Yes, Said Dr. Durmer. The first step in the solution is to identify the problem. “Of all employees who have sleep disorders, approximately 80% are undiagnosed and untreated.” Solutions that can be initiated by the employee include keeping waking periods below 15 hours. “Sustained wake periods can predict performance lapses,” Dr. Durmer continued. “After 15 hours of wakefulness, performance begins to degrade to levels equal to alcohol consumption.” A sleep strategy that includes a 30-minute power nap, as well as sleep banking and recovery sleep, will help.

Other Tips:
• Take periodic breaks to reduce physical and psychological fatigue.
• Create regularity, including consistent times for going to sleep and waking up. (Routine sleep environments improve human conditioned responses to sleep.)
• Consider being tested for OSA, and get treatment if you are diagnosed with it.

A two-year study by FusionHealth, where Dr. Durmer is the Chief Medical Officer, and Southeastern Freight Lines matched 100 participants who received interventions with 100 members of a control group who did not. The study yielded statistically significant results, according to John Pryor, Southeastern’s VP of Human Resources and Safety. Accidents among participants dropped by 44.9 percent, while rising by 30.3 percent in the control group. In addition, the number of days spent in the hospital by the control group were 5.6 times greater than those participants who received interventions.

More information concerning this topic and the study mentioned may be found at fusionhealth.com

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