Getting a good night’s rest is an important part of being healthy and being able to be productive the following day. Sleep apnea can interfere with a person’s ability to get enough oxygen in the night so that they can sleep soundly and awake refreshed. Anyone who is suffering from sleep apnea and is having difficulties going to work and being productive should look into the criteria that they need to meet to gain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. But first, people should learn about the symptoms and treatments if they’re unsure of whether or not their drowsiness during the day might be a symptom of sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the person has difficulties breathing at night. More specifically, breathing will stop and start throughout the night, resulting in disturbed sleep and the person not getting enough oxygen throughout the night.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax. The throat muscles support the soft palate, the tonsils, side wall, and tongue. If the throat muscles are relaxed, the throat narrows, so it’s difficult for people to breathe. This is the most common form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is when the brain isn’t sending the correct signals that control breathing. And complex sleep apnea syndrome is when a person has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
People of all ages are affected by sleep apnea, including children, but there are some factors that increase the likelihood that a person will experience this condition. One of them is having excess weight around the neck or simply having a neck with a larger circumference even if being overweight isn’t an issue. The extra tissue can make the breathing passageways more narrow. Additionally, some people just have narrowed airways or tonsils and adenoids that get in the way of breathing at night.
Males are also at an increased risk, with men about two to three times as likely as women to experience the condition. Age can also affect the likelihood that someone has sleep apnea, and this is also true for women past menopausal age.
A family history of sleep apnea, use of certain types of sedative drugs, smoking, and some medical conditions can also increase the likelihood of having sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
There are several primary symptoms of sleep apnea, and having sleep apnea makes people more prone to developing other, related conditions. One of the most noticeable signs of sleep apnea is loud snoring and gasping for air during sleep. Other people living with the person with sleep apnea might also report that the person has periods of time where they don’t breathe at all while sleeping. The person might have some of these symptoms without realizing until someone else tells them. That’s why people living alone should be aware of the symptoms so that they’re able to tell their medical provider.
The person suffering from sleep apnea might also awake with a dry mouth, which is caused by the gasping for breath and snoring. Additionally, they might experience insomnia because their sleep apnea wakes them up, and they might have morning headache because of their poor sleep. Later in the day, they’re more likely to have difficulties staying awake and paying attention when awake, and they might be more irritable due to lack of sleep.
One of the illnesses that sleep apnea can make more likely to occur is high blood pressure. People who have sleep apnea experience drops in their oxygen level at night, which puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and increases blood pressure.
People are also more likely to develop insulin resistance and type II diabetes. They’re also more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.
Treatments of Sleep Apnea
There are several types of treatment available, but the best treatment option can vary from one person to the next. For instance, losing weight might help overweight people, and avoiding alcohol and tranquilizers before bed will make it less likely that their throat muscles relax. Additionally, when smokers quit, they won’t have as much inflamed tissue. Sleeping on the side or stomach can bring relief to some because the soft palate is less likely to rest against their throat.
There are also several types of machines and appliances that can help keep the airways open, regulate breathing patterns, and provide oxygen to the wearer. The CPAP machine is one of the most commonly used types of devices. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and this machine is placed over the nose to provide a slight air pressure that’s strong enough to keep airways open.
Oral appliances are another option. This type of device keeps the jaw forward to keep the airways clear, and some people prefer this option because they think that it’s easier to use and keep on at night than a CPAP machine.
An adaptive servo-ventilation device is a newer machine on the market that learns the wearer’s breathing patterns and delivers air pressure at different rates to normalize breathing and prevent stops in breathing throughout the night.
Surgeries are another form of treatment. Tissue removal and tissue shrinkage are both options as a way to getting rid of the extra tissue at the back of the mouth that’s causing the obstruction. Jaw repositioning and inserting implants to keep the airways open are two other options.
Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea
While sleep apnea is no longer listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, which is the handbook for determining whether or not someone is eligible to receive disability benefits for a condition, some people might qualify for benefits under a different listing. Some of these listings include mental deficits, breathing disorders, and heart problems.
In order to qualify, one of the first criteria that a person must satisfy is having the symptoms for at least 12 months. From there, the exact criteria is going to depend on which listing the applicant thinks that they might fall under.
If applying for benefits under the mental deficit listing, they must show that they have a decreased IQ of at least 15 points. Otherwise, they might qualify if they’re having hallucinations, significant memory problems, difficulties with social functioning, or a variety of other symptoms. One of the reasons that some people with sleep apnea might qualify under this listing is because severe lack of sleep can cause difficulties with cognitive functioning.
Because sleep apnea directly involves breathing and can cause cardiovascular problems, some people might qualify under one of these listings. There are several criteria that a person must meet for each of these listings, but the symptoms often have to be life threatening.
If someone doesn’t meet the criteria under any of the above listings, they can also apply using the residual functional capacity test. For this process, the doctor puts together a list of the patient’s limitations, and the SSA compares that list with the jobs that the applicant has done in the past to determine whether or not there’s any suitable work for them.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Sleep Apnea, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.