Snoring and OSA are so common that their true impact on our daily lives is difficult to appreciate. These problems can affect all areas of our lives. The wide extent of these effects can be categorized in the following way:
Snoring can create a severe strain on a relationship. Imagine sleeping next to a buzz-saw every night. Before long, you will become angry and resentful. You may even start waking the snorer up to stop the noise and to reposition the snorer. In the morning, you are both tired and upset from the night's disturbance. In one extreme case, a wife applied Crazy Glue to her husband's lips and nostrils to stop the snoring. He suffocated and died.
Patients with OSA often wake up tired and irritable. They may find it difficult to stay focused and are forgetful. None of these traits are conducive to maintaining good relationships. The fatigue and sleepiness that patients with OSA suffer prevents them from being full participants in life.
There have been several recent scientific studies looking at these issues. These studies found that quality-of-life was significantly impaired in patients with OSA and that treatment could restore normal function.
The best documentation of occupational impairment due to OSA can be found for truck drivers. The Stanford study showed that OSA was common in this group. Other studies have shown that the degree of impairment in driving ability due to OSA could be more severe than that seen in drivers with blood alcohol levels far in excess of the legal limit. There have been a few small studies showing that treatment can restore normal driving ability. There are now several initiatives underway to develop screening programs for OSA in commercial drivers.
OSA affects individuals in all walks of life and occupations. The overall economic impact from OSA in terms of sick-leave, health insurance costs, accidents on the job, and lowered productivity is estimated to be in the tens of billions annually.
The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study recently reported that:
These figures are quite similar to those reported for long-haul truck drivers.
Snoring by itself is not thought to contribute to other health problems. OSA, on the other hand, is closely associated with a number of serious medical conditions. These include:
There was a recent review of studies looking at diseases associated with OSA in the Lancet. This study questioned the validity of the conclusions that were drawn in many of the studies. However, this simply reflects the difficulty of showing an independent effect from OSA in populations in which smoking, obesity, and alcoholism are common. More recent studies which were not included in the review have better study designs and provide strong evidence of the important relationships between OSA and these serious medical conditions.
For more information on the economic impact of sleep disorders click here.
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