What Is a Sleep Apnea Disability?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Sleep apnea, also known as sleep apnoea in the United Kingdom, is a disorder that causes people to awake frequently and gasp for breath. It is most frequently seen in overweight people, but people of healthy weights are not immune. Some countries recognize sleep apnea as a disability and even give the affected people benefits. Normally, the person must first demonstrate that he or she has a sleep apnea disability by undergoing a sleep study. If the study confirms the disability, sleep apnea treatments, such as wearing breathing devices at night, can be started.

This disorder can cause people to fall sleep at work, arrive late, or even miss work entirely. People with a sleep apnea disability cannot get a full night’s rest and may randomly fall asleep or struggle to stay awake throughout the day. Sometimes the person truly cannot work a regular job, even with treatment, and is given benefits by the government for living expenses. Occasionally, a person with a sleep apnea disability is fired because of his or her inability to stay awake and remain productive at work, and such cases are sometimes taken to court. In some jurisdictions, businesses must give special aid to employees with disabilities and cannot legally fire them because of that disability.


Also known as a polysomnography (PSG), a sleep study is conducted on people who suspect they have a sleep disorder. Both machines and people monitor the sleeping person for at least one full night. It is sometimes obvious when a person in a sleep study has a sleep apnea ability because he or she suddenly sits up and gasps for air several times. The person may not be aware of his or her late-night breathing difficulties, only that he or she cannot stay awake during the day. To get disability benefits, most governments require a sleep study and sometimes even choose the institution that will conduct the test.

The treatment of a sleep apnea disability depends on its severity. For mild cases, a doctor might simply recommend the patient sleep on his or her side and avoid substances that relax the throat muscles. More severe cases might require special breathing devices or surgery, which can lead to significant improvements of the patient’s quality of life. A sleep apnea disability can be essentially cured by opening the person’s airway enough to allow him or her a full night’s sleep. If the disorder is no longer problematic, benefits given to that person for having the disability may stop.


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