Health conditions, along with age, are the main factors determining your eligibility for life insurance.
Even more specifically, they’ll determine the premium rate you’ll pay for a policy.
In the grand scheme of things, sleep apnea is often relatively low on the risk level scale.
But it mostly depends on the degree of sleep apnea you have.
More serious levels of sleep apnea can result in higher premiums.
And at the extreme, a severe case may result in a decline.
But in many cases, it is possible to get an affordable life insurance policy with sleep apnea, even with preferred rates.
What is Sleep Apnea? (And Why It Hurts Rates!)
Sleep apnea was once mostly associated with snoring, but that’s hardly the only reason for concern.
Sleep apnea is actually a medical condition that can affect overall health and longevity.
Since it refers to difficulty breathing while sleeping, sleep apnea can cause a reduction in oxygen in the bloodstream.
Sleep apnea leads to drowsiness during the daytime hours.
That drowsiness could cause car accidents, which in and of itself is a risk factor for life insurance.
But of greater concern is the likelihood that sleep apnea can cause lung damage, cardiovascular issues, and hypertension, stroke, or heart failure – if left untreated, all high-risk factors for life insurance.
There’s also evidence sleep apnea increases the chance of depression.
Various studies have indicated sleep apnea causes a significant increase in the incidence of cancer.
Sleep apnea can be caused by an obstruction of the upper airway, but it can also be the result of the brain’s inability to properly regulate breathing.
Obesity and cigarette smoking are also common causes.
Sleep apnea is more common in men, and the incidence increases with age.
And though it is more common in people over the age of 40, it can also affect children.
There’s also some indication sleep apnea may be genetic.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Central Sleep Apnea
The first is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It’s caused by a blockage of the airway.
The soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
OSA is the more common form of sleep apnea.
The second is central sleep apnea.
It’s not caused by a blocked airway, but by the brain failing to signal to the muscles to breathe.
This failure is due to instability in the respiratory control center of the brain.
Central sleep apnea is generally the more serious of the two.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If obesity is a contributing factor, the most obvious treatment is weight loss.
Sleep apnea can also be alleviated by proper sleeping position.
For example, if you have the condition, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your back.
Smoking is also a factor since it has a negative impact on the respiratory system in general.
Eliminating smoking can improve overall breathing function, reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, and can also lower your rates as life insurance for smokers can be costly.
Excess alcohol consumption has also been linked to sleep apnea, and a reduction in consumption is strongly recommended.
With obstructive sleep apnea, there are a variety of causes for a blockage.
These can include having large tonsils, a large tongue, a small jawbone, or even a large neck size.
It could also be the result of a nasal obstruction, sinus problems, allergies, or a deviated septum.
It’s possible that sinus problems or allergies can be treated medically.
And of course, tonsils and a deviated septum can be surgically repaired.
The most specific treatment for sleep apnea is a machine known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine, better known as a CPAP.
The system uses an air pump connected to a mask worn over the face.
It provides airflow during inhalation to prevent the airway from collapsing.
A CPAP not only relieves the symptoms of sleep apnea, like difficulty breathing and snoring, but it enables the user to get a deep and restful sleep.
It is this absence of sleep that causes health conditions, including drowsiness and hypertension.
The unit takes some getting used to but generally produces very positive results in dealing with the condition.
For some, use of a CPAP may be a temporary measure until other efforts, like quitting smoking and losing weight, take effect.
But for others, use can become permanent.
Applying For Life Insurance With Sleep Apnea
If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea and you apply for life insurance, you’ll need to disclose the condition and all the details on your application.
It’s necessary to be absolutely truthful with this process.
The insurance company will not only get information from your application, but they’ll also check your medical records, even with a no exam life insurance policy.
Be as specific as possible.
And never try to omit a condition like sleep apnea, or any other health condition for that matter.
Specific questions regarding your condition will include:
- The date the condition was diagnosed.
- Any complications you’ve experienced as a result of the condition.
- The progression of the condition – whether it’s stable, improving, increasing, or intermittent.
- The treatment you’re receiving, and whether or not it’s been effective. This includes the use of a CPAP machine, or any medications being taken for the condition.
- Surgical procedures were undertaken to improve the condition.
- Whether or not you’re a smoker.
- Your level of alcohol consumption.
- The existence of any other health-related conditions.
Your answer to the last question will be particularly important.
Sleep apnea is considered a health condition all its own.
But the insurance underwriting decision becomes more challenging if there are other conditions, such as obesity, heart arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, depression, or other respiratory-related conditions.
In applying for life insurance with sleep apnea, you should be proactive in dealing with the condition.
You should be working with the appropriate medical professionals on a regular basis and faithfully participating in any prescribed treatment regimes.
You should also stay on top of your overall health.
This will mean eating a balanced diet and maintaining your body weight, getting regular exercise, and dealing with any other health issues you have, like hypertension.
The Degree of Sleep Apnea is the Main Factor
Sleep apnea can be indicated by loud snoring, waking repeatedly, drowsiness, lack of energy during the day, morning headaches, or a sore throat.
The final determination is made by a specific medical test.
If you show symptoms of sleep apnea, you’ll be given a polysomnogram, more commonly known as a sleep study.
At one time, sleep studies were done at sleep disorder centers.
But as technology has improved, a sleep apnea test can now be done at home!
You wear an electronic device – generally on your hip – that’s connected to your face.
It electronically transmits and records your physical activity while you sleep.
The results are then analyzed by a sleep specialist.
This test will determine not only the existence of sleep apnea, but also the degree of the condition.
If you have a mild level of sleep apnea with no related health conditions, you may get only a slight increase in your insurance premium.
With certain insurance companies, it’s even possible that you’ll get a preferred rate.
Naturally, you’ll need to be a non-smoker with no other health-related conditions.
If the condition is more serious, you may still get an approval, but it will come with a much higher premium.
It’s even possible the amount of your death benefit will be approved at less than the amount requested.
The type of sleep apnea you have is also a factor.
OSA is not only the more common form, but it’s also more treatable.
You’re more likely to be approved and at better rates than if you have central sleep apnea.
Applying with the Right Insurance Company Can Make a Difference
There are literally scores of life insurance companies, and many of them advertise very low premium rates.
If you have sleep apnea – or virtually any other type of health condition – don’t be drawn to those companies.
They’re offering lowball rates aimed squarely at those with the very best life insurance profiles.
Those are usually people who are young, non-smokers in excellent health, and with no major health conditions.
In short, you won’t qualify for those rates.
At the same time, don’t make the mistaken assumption that companies that have the lowest premiums for the best case customers will also be the lowest for people with health conditions.
Most are specifically targeting the healthiest segment of the population and may specifically exclude those with health conditions.
Applying with such companies doesn’t come without risk.
If you apply and get turned down, the decline will be part of your permanent insurance record.
That record can have a negative impact on an application with other companies.
Anytime you have any type of health condition, including sleep apnea, it’s important to apply to life insurance companies that take the most favorable view of your condition.
And there are such companies out there – you just need to know where to look to find the best life insurance companies.
The best course of action when you have a health condition is always to apply for life insurance through a qualified insurance broker.
We know exactly who the insurance companies are who are most likely to approve your application, and at the best possible premium.
Next to taking care of your health, having a good insurance broker in your corner is the single best strategy for getting an affordable life insurance policy when you have any type of health condition.