Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. As a result, you never fully rest when you sleep. Prolonged sleep apnea can lead to more severe health concerns, like a heart attack or stroke. Sleep apnea also is connected secondarily with other health conditions. For example, sleep apnea also is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder and is known to exacerbate trauma symptoms.
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In this article about PTSD and sleep apnea
- What is sleep apnea?
- The relationship between sleep apnea and PTSD
- Can sleep apnea be claimed as secondary to PTSD?
- Can PTSD be secondary to sleep apnea?
- How do you prove your sleep apnea is service-connected?
- C&P exam for sleep apnea secondary to PTSD
- Woods and Woods can help
You are in bed for nine hours or more every night, but you still feel exhausted during the day and frequently take naps. You don’t see how you could need more sleep, but you’re increasingly irritable and becoming more prone to mood swings. When you mentioned it to your partner, they said that your snoring has gotten loud, and sometimes you gasp in your sleep. Now you aren’t dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder on its own. It seems you also may have a sleep disorder. But are PTSD and sleep apnea connected? And can you connect your sleep issue to your military service? This article explains.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops. It makes you feel tired– even when you think you got a full night’s rest–because your sleep was repeatedly interrupted without your knowledge. It affects your ability to sleep and function in your daily life.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive sleepiness and fatigue
- Loud breathing
- Dry mouth or throat
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
Risk factors for sleep apnea include age and obesity. The disorder also is more common in men.
Treatment could include wearing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine at night to ensure adequate oxygen flow. And doctors frequently recommend a better, more calming sleep routine, like regular bedtime and avoiding stimulants before bed.
If a doctor determines that weight is the cause of the disorder, treatment can involve losing weight.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in more severe health issues, including the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The relationship between sleep apnea and PTSD
People with sleep apnea who also have post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to experience worse PTSD symptoms as a result of their sleep disorder. Sleep apnea affects 12% to 90% of people with PTSD.
People with PTSD and sleep apnea are likely to experience:
- More severe depression
- Higher suicide risk
- Increased substance use
- Risk of early death
- Poor overall quality of life
PTSD and sleep apnea often appear together with more severe symptoms for each disorder.
Can sleep apnea be claimed as secondary to PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. The VA rates PTSD as a mental disorder with diagnostic code 9411 in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. It can rate up to 100%, but the highest rating typically given is 70%.
Symptoms that qualify for a 70% disability rating from PTSD are:
- Near-continuous panic or depression that affects the ability to function independently and effectively
- Difficulty adapting to stressful situations, including work or a work-like setting
- Having speech that is sometimes illogical, inappropriate, or irrelevant
- Having suicidal thoughts and ideations
- Inability to form and maintain effective relationships with others
- Having obsessive rituals or routines that interfere with daily activities
- Impaired impulse control, such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence
- Spatial disorientation
- Neglect of personal hygiene and appearance
Because of the relationship between PTSD and sleep apnea, veterans can claim a secondary service connection with PTSD. That means you need to first be service-connected for PTSD. Then you also could be service connected for sleep apnea.
Can PTSD be secondary to sleep apnea?
The VA rates sleep apnea with diagnostic code 6847 in the respiratory system section of the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. It can rate up to 100%, but you’re more likely to rate at 50%.
Here are the VA ratings and compensation for sleep apnea:
|Description||VA rating||Monthly payment|
|Chronic respiratory failure||100%||$3,332.06|
|Requires use of a CPAP machine or other breathing device||50%||$958.44|
|Chronic daytime sleepiness||30%||$467.39|
Because research shows that PTSD and sleep apnea are related, there can be a secondary service connection to the trauma disorder and other medical conditions.
How do you prove your sleep apnea is service-connected?
You have to prove that your military service caused the sleep disorder. The exception is veterans of the Persian Gulf War who may be able to connect it to Gulf War syndrome, making it a presumptive condition. Otherwise, you must show through medical records that your sleep apnea began in service. Or you need to provide diagnoses from medical professionals linking your sleep apnea to signs or symptoms that you experienced while in service.
“If you think that you suffer from sleep apnea, it’s really important that you go to a medical professional, get a diagnosis, have it documented and get a sleep study,” said Krystal Lechner, a VA-certified disability benefits attorney.
Lechner said you also can connect sleep apnea to your military service by getting statements from those you served with about your sleep disruptions. If they heard or witnessed you having symptoms of sleep apnea, they can provide statements to support your disability claim.
C&P exam for sleep apnea secondary to PTSD
For the VA to consider disability benefits for sleep apnea, you must file a claim. The VA will usually request a Compensation and Pension exam. The examining physician likely will request you perform a sleep study and will ask you questions about your service. If the VA schedules a sleep study, you need to complete it to avoid denial of your claim.
You also can use a Disability Benefits Questionnaire to help your claim. A DBQ allows you to address symptoms, severity, possible causes, and how the condition may be related to other disabilities. A private physician also can complete the form for you.
Once the VA processes your claim for benefits, you will receive a confirmation or denial. If the VA denies your benefits, you may want to file an appeal. If you win your appeal, you should receive monthly compensation plus compensation back to when you filed your claim.
Woods and Woods can help
If you experience sleep apnea that you think connects to your military service, either on its own or secondarily, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file an initial claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, sleep apnea is a secondary condition for many other medical conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma, and heart disease. If you have a medical condition resulting from your military service and can’t get restful sleep, you should consider whether there is a connection.
Yes, it’s essential to treat your sleep apnea. Like other medical issues, sleep apnea can cause other problems if left untreated. These health concerns include stroke, heart failure, and diabetes.