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Getting to the bottom of fatigue issues with sleep apnea tests

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It starts with a simple question: Are you tired during the day?

Workplace fatigue experts say a person who answers “yes” could be a candidate for a test for obstructive sleep apnea, a medical condition that results in nighttime disordered and stalled breathing that can cause a person to have a disruptive night that often results in daytime sleepiness.

Michael Trufant, an Asheville, North Carolina-based fatigue awareness program manager for Aeroflow Healthcare Inc., said a sufferer can experience between five and 30 episodes of sleep interruption a night because of the disorder.

A video provided by Aeroflow Healthcare helps illustrate what sleep apnea can do. A man is asleep with a slight snore and visibly stops breathing as his chest becomes stiff. Instantly, he jerks awake with a loud snore, but he won’t recall the waking episode in the morning — the telltale sign of sleep apnea.

Aeroflow Healthcare is among the firms marketing at-home sleep apnea screening tests that can help employers discover whether an employee has the disorder. Mr. Trufant said many of his clients come from the trucking industry, but that the trend is spreading to other industries.

The testing and treatment — a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device — falls under workplace benefits, but is fast becoming part of the risk-avoidance program, according to the National Safety Council’s Emily Whitcomb, who helps run the Itasca, Illinois-based nonprofit’s fatigue initiative.

“Thirteen percent of workplace accidents are caused by a sleep disorder,” she said. “This is something worth promoting.”