Sleep Apnea Doesn’t Affect Life Insurance Rates – Does It?


Barely 20 years ago, not many people had heard of sleep apnea. As word of the condition spread, people often associated it mostly with an annoying snoring habit. But sleep apnea is a lot more than snoring – it’s actually a health-related condition, and one that can be extremely dangerous.

For that reason, if you have the condition, sleep apnea will play a role in both your ability to a obtain life insurance, and the premium level that you will pay for it.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea causes oxygen levels in the blood to drop. It can be caused by an obstruction in the upper airway, or by the inability of the brain to initiate breathing. This can be indicated by heavy snoring, or by extreme drowsiness throughout the day.

There are health conditions that can contribute to sleep apnea. Obesity is one known cause, and it is very common in sleep apnea patients. If untreated, it can lead to hypertension, cardiovascular problems, lung damage, and even increased risk of car accidents. The condition has also been linked to both cancer and depression.

In fact, various studies have indicated that the incidence of cancer in sleep apnea patients is anywhere from moderately higher – to several times higher – than it is for the general population.

When it comes sleep apnea, snoring is the least of anyone’s concern, even if it is the symptom most closely associated with the condition.

How does sleep apnea affect life insurance?

Needless to say, insurance companies take sleep apnea very seriously when considering applications for life insurance. At the extreme, sleep apnea can result in a decline of coverage by the insurance company. And generally speaking, if the policy is approved, the premiums could be much higher than what they are for an otherwise healthy person.

In addition to higher premiums, some life insurance companies limit the amount of coverage they will provide to a person who has sleep apnea. They may lower the death benefit to a level that is far lower than the amount you want to apply for.

Sleep apnea and life insurance premiums

If you have sleep apnea, the life insurance company will want to know that you are seeking treatment for it. They’ll also be interested in how consistently you are taking advantage of the treatment options. A severe condition can result in premium rates ranging from standard to preferred as long as you are complying with the treatment regimen.

The rating level that you’ll receive from the life insurance company will be determined by your sleep study. You will need to have testing done periodically, as well as using a CPAP device on a regular basis (see below). If that cannot be shown, the premiums you will be assessed for your life insurance can be as much as four times higher than they would be for a completely healthy person.

The severity of the condition matters – a lot

Sleep apnea can be classified at three different levels: mild, moderate, and severe. What level you are at will have a significant impact on your approval, the amount of coverage you can obtain, and the premium rates you’ll be charged.

If your condition is judged to be in the mild to moderate range – and you have no other health risk factors – you may be able to obtain coverage at standard rates, and with some companies even at preferred plus rates.

Also affecting life insurance consideration is the level of treatment you are undergoing in response to the condition. One effective method of treatment is the use of continuous positive airway pressure, commonly known as CPAP. The unit makes use of a mask and air pump that provides airflow during inhalation to prevent the airway from collapsing. It is frequently used at night while sleeping, as it improves the ability of the user to get a deep and restful sleep each night. The increased level of sleep alleviates many of the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as drowsiness and hypertension.

Some other therapies can be quite simple, such as avoiding sleeping on your back, losing weight, and avoiding smoking or excess alcohol consumption.

The presence of other known risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure, in combination with sleep apnea could lead to a less favorable life insurance rating, and result in either a decline in coverage, or much higher life insurance premiums.

You may need to get additional help to get life insurance

Life insurance companies take sleep apnea very serious. As a result, if you have the condition and you need life insurance, you should work closely with a competent insurance agent. The agent will need to have experience in finding policies for people who have the condition, and should know those companies that have the most favorable view of applicants who have sleep apnea.

If you have the condition, and you attempt to get life insurance on your own, you may spend a lot of time and end up getting declined by several companies. Any insurance declines you get, will make it more difficult for you to obtain life insurance with the next company you apply to. The trick then is to avoid the declines, by finding which companies are most likely to approve your policy. Only an experienced life insurance agent will be able to help you to do that.