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Is Sleep Apnea a disability? The question of whether Sleep Apnea is a disability is a legal one concerning state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The short answer to whether Sleep Apnea is a disability: maybe. The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and related state laws don't define what constitutes a disability in black and white terms. Rather, the question as to whether Sleep Apnea is a disability, or whether any other disorder is a disability for that matter, rests on an all things considered facts-and-circumstances test of the extent to which the disorder in question limits an individual in a major life activity. What rises to the level of a "major life activity" is its own legal can of worms.

The question of whether Sleep Apnea is a disability will now be tested by Elsie Hinton, a North Carolina woman with Sleep Apnea who was fired by the state Department of Transportation last July for repeatedly falling asleep on the job. Ms. Hinton, who worked as an artist in the DOT's Communications department, used CPAP. But at the time of her dismissal, her CPAP was not working, so she was not getting restorative sleep, and got caught sleeping on the job. Her attorney, John Campion, said Ms. Hinton had no control over falling asleep at her desk. “The problem with sleep apnea is you really don't get a good night's sleep,” Campion said, likening the condition to epilepsy.

The jury is still out, literally and figuratively, on whether Ms. Hinton will prevail in her discrimination suit. We will keep you updated. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear members' perspectives on whether her case has merit.

Please keep in mind that even if Ms. Hilton shows that Sleep Apnea is a disability, she will have to show that her former employer failed to make reasonable accomodations for the disability.

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Comment by Sunil Puri on August 17, 2011 at 4:38pm
I have recently been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea (OSAS), and have been told by one hospital that it is a disability and by another one that it is not ! Thanks.
Comment by Tom on February 13, 2011 at 4:13pm

Looking back I have had sleep Apnea as a teen my brother and Mother would tell me that when I sleep I would stop breathing. Around 18 I started getting panic attacks that would end when i pass out. I told my doctor but he had no answer for me. Then in the middle of the night I would wake up with these panic attacks that i would describe as the feeling of being drowned. About six years ago my doctor was worried about my high blood pressure . And I was complaining that i was always tired,. The Doctor wanted to do a sleep study. My insurance did not cover it and I did not want to drop the 800.00 dollars for one. It became worse and I would find my self wakening up at work  while standing with a lit torch in my hand. Then I drove my car in a tree after falling asleep. I opted for the sleep study. Well I got my cpap that I had to put out of pocket because my plan does not cover it. And after trying most types of mask it does not help. well The doctor opted to get my nasal passage fixed so I went for that operation. I believe I have the central apnea were my mind forgets to send the signal to breath. The cpap helps a little better. I use the free style were you stick the tubes up your nose and strapped to your head. but when i wake up my heart is beating fast my head is numb and I have to tell my self to breath before my heart stops pounding. Doctor tells me their not much more he can do but operate and cut the meat out of my throat. I know someone that had that done and still has issues and still uses his cpap and he is not over weighed.I am not doing that.

Comment by johnclerk on October 6, 2010 at 6:42am

A Pride maxima scooter has many advantages, but the scooters of today also have limitations that many people do not realize. However, if a person does their homework before purchasing one of the many power chairs available, then the advantages can far outweigh the disadvantages.

Comment by 99 on September 11, 2010 at 2:19pm
sleeping is a major life event
breathing is a major life event

both the above is encompassed in the words sleep apnea
Comment by RockRpsgt on July 21, 2009 at 8:01am
Did we eer here what happened?
Comment by RockRpsgt on July 21, 2009 at 8:00am
What about complex apnea? Or someone who without knowing has gone with unchecked apnea?
Comment by Jerry O Bradley II on June 22, 2009 at 8:29pm
Long story short... I was dismissed from my job a few weeks ago for repeatedly falling asleep at my computer. At first, I assumed that my problem was just a simple fact of not getting enough sleep and therefore tried going to bed earlier. About months later, I had another documented incident of falling asleep at my desk, and was given a one day suspension. At this time I began to wonder if I might have a medical condition, perhaps my problem was the result of hypoglycemia, some of the symptoms of which, I have observed in myself but never confirmed by a doctor. Yet, through my own stubbornness, I still did not consult a physician and thought, perhaps, I just needed to eat a snack between my usual 6:30am breakfast and my 2:30pm lunch break, in efforts to keep my blood sugar up and get me through my mid-day slump. Two more months passed without incident until late May, '09, at which time, my employer decided to terminate me. I have since been to see a doctor, who suspects that my problem is apnea. i am scheduled for a sleep study at the end of this week to confirm this.

My question is, if apnea is a valid disability under the ADA, what recourse, if any, do I have given that my possible disability was undiagnosed at the time of my dismissal?
Comment by Neil James on May 26, 2009 at 7:29am
The laws surrounding what constitutes a disability differ between the UK and the US.
Sleep Apnoea is a disability, It is a controlled disability in the same way diabetes is a controlled disability (once you receive treatment of course!).
Anything that affects your ability to function is a disability. Dyslexia is classed as a disability.
Acknowledging this is not whining or feeling sorry for yourself.
Comment by jeff on May 13, 2009 at 4:07pm
I have osa and im in thr middle of filling out paper work for disability. when i times was tested in 2000 i stop 83 times an hour . then when i got tested in 2007 it was up to 93 time an hour. i work for a graet company
they took care of me but in 2008 i was laid off for down sizing . and i been tring to get work but no one want
me when i tell them i have osa. so yes i think osa is a disability .
Comment by Sugarshirl on May 1, 2009 at 2:28am
No, I don't think that Sleep Apnea is a disability when you are being treated properly. It might be for those that do not get the help needed or if they cannot tolerate the CPAP. Being tired is really dangerous, to yourself and to others. I always boasted that I could function on only 4-5 hours of sleep a night, but when that number went down to 2-3 hours only, it almost killed me. Twice I fell asleep while driving and scared myself silly. I told my husband that I was not driving anymore until we found out what was happening to me. I really thought that not sleeping, or sleeping while sitting on the side of the bed was due to my being overweight and that was also making me unable to breathe deeply. The doctor tested me and found out that not only did I have severe sleep apnea because I stopped breathing 90 times an hour, he also discovered that I have end stage COPD, my lungs only function 26%. Those two were the ones that classified me as being disable and I am on oxygey 24/7. I also have diabetes (insulin dependent) and had 5 bypass heart surgery 10 years ago so I have been disabled now for two years. Joining this forum is the first time I am actually learning about sleep apnea and I am grateful for all the info, thank you.
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