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Sleep Apnea and Life Insurance

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It’s entirely possible to get life insurance with sleep apnea, though the underlying causes of the condition and its severity will play a big role in whether or not you qualify.

These factors will also affect the premium you pay if you do qualify, so up-to-date medical records and an accurate insurance application are extremely important.

We’re taking the time today to look at the relationship between sleep apnea and life insurance in more detail.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

You may be wondering if your nighttime snoring is actually sleep apnea and if it will affect your chances of getting life insurance, or you may already have a sleep apnea diagnosis that has negatively affected your ability to get insured.

Let’s learn a little more about sleep apnea and why it can affect your insurability.

Sleep apnea is a relatively new phenomenon, at least as far as an official diagnosis goes.

Just two decades ago, what we now consider sleep apnea was simply regarded by most as excessive snoring.

We now know sleep apnea is a medical condition which can stem from serious health problems. That’s why life insurance companies treat sleep apnea so seriously.

Of course, companies look at each individual’s sleep apnea on a case by case basis, but it doesn’t mean your sleep apnea won’t affect your life insurance rates.

Sleep apnea is categorized as a serious sleep disorder and is notable for the deep breathing and loud snoring it causes by interrupting breathing during sleep.

These interruptions actually cause breathing to briefly stop. This then causes the person’s body and brain to kick into high gear to restart breathing.

In the most serious cases, these breathing interruptions occur hundreds of times each night.

In addition to interrupting sleep and causing fatigue, sleep apnea can also potentially damage the brain and other organs due to lack of oxygen.

WebMD notes that additional effects of sleep apnea include:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Risk of stroke
  3. Heart failure
  4. Diabetes
  5. Depression
  6. and more

You can now see why sleep apnea is treated as so much more than a simple snoring problem by life insurance companies.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Doctors have identified two main types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea
  2. Central sleep apnea

Each type is quite different from the other and will affect your life insurance eligibility differently.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway. This usually stems from the soft tissue at the back of the throat, which collapses during sleep, causing blockages.

Central sleep apnea isn’t caused by a blockage. Instead, the brain fails to send the message that you need to breathe. You then temporarily stop breathing.

Not only the type of sleep apnea you have, but also its severity, greatly affects your chances of qualifying for life insurance.

Who Gets Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.

However, there are certain groups of people it affects more commonly. If you’re in one of these at-risk groups, it’s important to watch for the signs of sleep apnea.

Overweight males are the most at-risk group. The risk goes up even more if you are over 40 years old.

A family history of sleep apnea is another common risk factor. Having some type of nasal obstruction is another one.

But all these risk factors should be taken with a grain of salt. Though older, overweight males with a family history might be most at risk, anyone can suffer from this medical condition.

Even young children can sometimes suffer from sleep apnea—so keep your eyes open if you’re a parent.

What Is the Application Process Like?

The process of buying life insurance starts with the application.

The application is what life insurance providers use to assess your risk to them. Most will also require a current medical exam for their traditional policies.

The information you give in your application is reviewed by a team of underwriters. It’s the job of the underwriters to get an idea of how risky it is to cover you.

You can expect to answer a wide range of basic questions first. These include your medical history, your family medical history, and your height/weight/BMI.

Your life insurance application will also ask questions regarding your lifestyle. Chief among these is whether or not you smoke. Some applications will also ask questions regarding how much alcohol you consume.

At some point on the application, you’ll be asked about your sleep apnea. Because you’re also turning in a medical exam, it’s important to be open and honest about your condition.

You can expect to be asked several questions about your sleep apnea, including:

  • When were you diagnosed?
  • What are your symptoms?
  • How severe is your sleep apnea?
  • What treatments or medications are you using?
  • What is your prognosis?

Your answers to all of these questions, along with your medical exam, are what the life insurance underwriter will use to assess your risk.

Finding the Best Coverage

The application and approval process for life insurance with sleep apnea is straightforward.

In fact, it’s much the same as applying for life insurance without sleep apnea. You start by researching the companies you’re most interested in.

If you have sleep apnea, start by looking at companies with a strong history of insuring others with similar sleep disorders.

The next step is sending in applications. We recommend applying to several life insurance companies at once.

Just because one offers you a higher premium, doesn’t mean they all will. Most providers assess risk in different ways.

The next step of the process is the longest. After your application has been submitted, you must wait for a response. With sleep apnea, you can expect to wait the traditional 4 to 6 weeks to hear back.

The underwriter is looking over your application in detail during this time period.

Some companies now offer expedited approval in as little as a few minutes, but you won’t qualify for this offer if you have a medical condition like sleep apnea.

What to Know About Your Life Insurance Rating

The vast majority of those with sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea, will be able to qualify for traditional coverage.

The exact rate you will receive depends on numerous factors. Chief among these is how severe your symptoms are and how they are being treated.

Out of the 16 rate classes offered by most life insurance providers, those with sleep apnea can expect to be in the top (better) half.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for those with sleep apnea to qualify for Standard rates.

Of course, we’re basing this on the assumption that sleep apnea is your only medical condition. Just because your sleep apnea is well managed, doesn’t mean a life insurance company will let another medical problem slide.

Life insurance companies look at every aspect of your overall health and lifestyle when coming up with a decision.

If you are denied traditional coverage, all is not lost. Most life insurance companies now offer no exam life insurance in the form of a guaranteed issue policy.

There are other companies who specialize in life insurance alternatives. These are well worth a look by anyone denied traditional coverage.


Jason Fisher

Jason Fisher is the founder and CEO of, LLC. and a multi-state licensed life insurance agent who has helped over a million Americans seek out affordable coverage, compare quotes, or get their family and businesses covered.

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