Sleep apnea, a health condition marked by abnormal sleep breathing during sleep, often goes underdiagnosed and can have a major financial impact on individuals. A 2016 report by the Rand Corporation estimated that poor sleep costs American companies hundreds of billions per year. Lack of sleep is linked to high-dollar conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, motor vehicle or workplace accidents, and compensating behaviors such as the substance abuse of pills, tobacco and alcohol. Indirect economic costs can include decreased productivity at work, reduced quality of life, and stress on interpersonal relationships. Company executives may be at a higher risk for sleep apnea due to the demands and stressful conditions of their jobs.
There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This type of apnea occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Various studies have shown individuals under 50 years of age with OSA have a reduced life expectancy of 8-18 years. Sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue and irritability, as well as:
Factors that increase the risk of this form of sleep apnea include:
How can I prevent this?
Diagnosis of OSA usually starts with an evaluation from a primary care, concierge or executive health physician. The Harness Health Partners Executive Health Team, for example, has diagnosed several executives over the past year with OSA, as an important part of their executive health physical.
Diagnosis is accomplished by the combination of an at-home sleep assessment, followed by an in-lab overnight assessment, then confirmed by a board-certified sleep medicine physician. Once diagnosed, the normal course of treatment may include the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
A CPAP is prescribed and managed by a sleep management physician. Harness Health Partners’ clients that were treated with CPAP therapy have reported better sleep, less daytime drowsiness and an overall well-rested feeling.
Harness Health Partners, a division of Mercy Health, is an employer health solutions company. We aim to harness the power of a healthy workforce by building effective partnerships, increasing productivity and lowering health care costs.