Treating Sleep Apnea in Firefighters Important in Preventing Accidents

Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), shift work disorder and insomnia affect millions of Americans each year, and new research shows that sleep disorders are especially prevalent, and often undiagnosed, among firefighters.

The study, from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, looked at 7,000 firefighters at 66 stations. Of the 7,000, over 37% showed positive results for sleep apnea or related disorders. Of these, over 80% were previously undiagnosed and untreated, putting both the firefighters and the people they serve at risk.

The study found that firefighters and paramedics who screened positive for a sleep disorder had more than twice as many motor vehicle accidents.

Additionally, firefighters who tested positive for one of the disorders showed more than a 150% increase in cardiovascular disease, and over a 200% increase in depression, anxiety, and diabetes compared with firefighters who did not suffer from obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

This research confirms the importance of screening and subsequent treatment for sleep disorders, especially those who are driving vehicles in emergency fields like firefighters, healthcare workers, and public safety officials. By working to identify individuals with higher risks for occupational sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, employers and business owners can take steps toward empowering healthier, safer, and more productive employees.

FusionHealth is the leader in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and other sleep disorders while providing sleep health solutions that deliver lasting results to employees, their families and their companies.

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SOURCE: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, news release, Nov. 13, 2014

A segment from The Today Show on this study is shown below.