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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Proving a Disability Based on Sleepiness or Daytime Somnolence

Many medical conditions cause sleepiness or excessive daytime somnolence: side effects of drugs; poor sleep cause by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea; pain or discomfort caused by orthopedic injuries or digestive issues; narcolepsy; chronic fatigue syndrome; or chronic Lyme disease; or fatigue resulting from chemotherapy.  Sleepiness can be problem at work due to falling asleep at work or difficulty in concentrating due to fatigue.  While sleepiness can cause serious issues at work, it can be difficult to prove in applying for long-term disability benefits or appealing a disability benefit denial.  


  • It can be difficult to establish disability based on daytime somnolence, either in an initial application for disability insurance benefits or appealing long-term benefit denial.  If you suffer from daytime somnolence, you should have your doctor administer the Eppworth Sleepiness Scale, which is a series of questions to assess the affect of sleepiness on your day-to-day function.  Here is a link the assessment.  It can be one of the ways to prove sleepiness resulting from medication, or from fatigue-related conditions.


  • If you believe your sleepiness is caused by disturbed sleep for any reason, you may want to have a sleep study performed.  Connecticut has many sleep centers available for long-term disability benefit applicants.  A sleep study  can quantify the quality of your sleep, and can assess some of the causes of the sleepiness.  If you have been discussing your fatigue with your doctor, it will probably be covered by your insurance.  Make sure you follow up on any recommendations resulting from the study, such as use of a CPAP machine or medications such as Ropinirole for restless leg syndrome.  As I have discussed elsewhere in this blog, it is important that you actively pursue diagnosis and treatment of any condition on which you are claiming disability.


  • If you primary complaint is the effect of sleepiness and that it harms your ability to think and reason (called “cognitive deficits”), you may want to get a neuropsychological test to assess the level of impairment.  I will discuss neuropsychological testing in a future blog post, but it is difficult to get an insurer to accept cognitive impairment without support by a neuropsychological test showing impairment. 


Daytime somnolence can be an important, but difficult to prove, part of a disability benefit application or an appeal of a disability benefit denial.  By analyzing how it is interfering with your ability to do your job, and figuring out what test to establish that, you can greatly increase the chance of prevailing on a long-term disability claim or appeal in Connecticut.  

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