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Wake Up to Wellness: Understanding Sleep Apnoea and risk in the workplace

sleep apnoea

In the pursuit of fostering a healthy and productive workforce, understanding and addressing health issues such as sleep apnoea is essential. Sleep apnoea is a prevalent sleep disorder that can significantly impact an individual's wellbeing and performance. In a recent discussion with a Doctor I was made aware that whilst he is undertaking workplace medicals a staggering 70% of males over 40 are diagnosed with sleep apnoea during his assessments. Other discussions I have had with workers in my previous roles was rather surprising to see how many actually had sleep apnoea and those that were surprised by their diagnosis and are now on the way to getting a better sleep. So really it is something we need to be talking about more regularly and raising the awareness.

In this blog post, we'll delve into what sleep apnoea is, explore its signs and symptoms, and discuss how to educate your workforce about this condition, along with the available treatments in Queensland.

Understanding Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder characterised by interrupted breathing during sleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), where the throat muscles relax excessively, leading to partial or complete blockage of the airway. Central sleep apnoea (CSA) is less common and occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.

Signs and Symptoms

  1. Loud Snoring: Persistent and loud snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnoea, particularly in obstructive sleep apnoea.

  2. Pauses in Breathing: Witnessed pauses in breathing during sleep, often reported by a partner or family member.

  3. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Individuals with sleep apnoea may experience extreme fatigue and daytime sleepiness, impacting their concentration and alertness.

  4. Morning Headaches: Frequent headaches upon waking may be a sign of sleep apnoea.

  5. Difficulty Concentrating: Impaired concentration, memory issues, and difficulty focusing on tasks during the day.

  6. Irritability and Mood Changes: Sleep apnoea can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels.

  7. Frequent Night time Urination: Nocturia, or frequent night time urination, is associated with sleep apnoea.

  8. Dry Mouth and Sore Throat: Individuals may wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat due to breathing through the mouth during sleep.

Educating Your Workforce

  1. Awareness Campaigns: Launch awareness campaigns to educate employees about sleep apnoea. Utilise posters, newsletters, and internal communications to share information about the signs and symptoms.

  2. Wellness Workshops: Conduct wellness workshops or seminars that focus on sleep health. Invite experts to discuss the impact of sleep apnoea on overall wellbeing and work performance.

  3. Digital Resources: Provide digital resources such as informative videos, podcasts, or online articles that employees can access at their convenience to learn more about sleep apnoea.

  4. Health Screenings: Offer health screenings that include assessments for sleep apnpea risk factors. This can be part of a broader health and wellness program.

  5. Incorporate it into Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): Integrate information about sleep apnpea into Employee Assistance Programs, some EAP companies have a "Better Sleep Program" so make sure you see what is available. Ensure that employees have access to resources and support for addressing sleep-related concerns.

Treatment Options in Queensland

  1. Consulting a Sleep Specialist: Encourage employees to consult with sleep specialists for a thorough evaluation. In Queensland, there are reputable sleep clinics and specialists who can provide comprehensive assessments.

  2. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy: CPAP therapy is a common and effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea. A CPAP machine delivers a constant stream of air to keep the airway open during sleep.

  3. Oral Appliances: Some individuals may benefit from oral appliances that reposition the jaw and tongue to prevent airway blockage. These are provided by dentists specialising in sleep disorders.

  4. Lifestyle Changes: Promote lifestyle changes that can improve sleep quality, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

  5. Weight Management Programs: Offer weight management programs as obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnoea. Healthy eating and regular exercise can contribute to weight loss and improved sleep.

Creating a Supportive Work Environment

  1. Flexible Work Arrangements: Consider offering flexible work arrangements for individuals undergoing sleep apnoea treatment. This could involve adjusted work hours or telecommuting options.

  2. Wellness Programs: Integrate sleep health into workplace wellness programs. Provide incentives for participation and achievements in improving sleep habits.

  3. Workplace Accommodations: Make accommodations for employees with sleep apnoea, such as providing a quiet space for breaks or adjusting workstations to enhance comfort.

  4. Open Dialogue: Foster an open and understanding workplace culture where employees feel comfortable discussing health concerns. This helps reduce stigma and encourages seeking help.

Prioritising sleep health in the workplace is a key component of overall employee wellbeing. By educating your workforce about sleep apnoea, recognising the signs and symptoms, and promoting available treatments in Queensland, you contribute to creating a workplace that values and supports the health of every team member. Empower your employees with knowledge, resources, and a supportive environment, and watch as a well-rested workforce brings increased energy, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.


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