A complete guide to life insurance for sleep apnea

You may pay more for life insurance if you have sleep apnea, but with consistent treatment and the right insurance provider, you’ll be eligible for the best prices.

Amanda Shih author photoKatherine Murbach Policygenius

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Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

&Katherine Murbach

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

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Expert reviewed

This article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.

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By

Maria Filindras

Maria Filindras

Financial Advisor

Maria Filindras is a financial advisor, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent in California, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

Updated|7 min read

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Disclaimer: The information in this article may be impacted by COVID-19. Contact a Policygenius agent for free to find out more.

Nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that causes disruptions in your breathing as you sleep. [1] You may pay more for life insurance if you have a sleep apnea diagnosis because it’s associated with health risks like heart disease.

If you have a long history of steady treatment and a mild diagnosis, you can still find the coverage you need at an affordable price by working with the right life insurance company. Here are the best insurers for people with sleep apnea, and how your diagnosis and treatment will impact your premiums.

Can you qualify for life insurance if you have sleep apnea?

Yes, you can qualify for life insurance coverage if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea — as long as you’re being actively treated for this condition. However, the severity of your sleep apnea and other factors, including your height-to-weight ratio, may also have an impact on your application. You’re more likely to get lower rates if your sleep apnea is mild and you stick to a treatment regimen.

Can you qualify for life insurance if you had sleep apnea in the past?

Yes, you can qualify for life insurance if you previously had a sleep apnea diagnosis. The insurance company may have you take a medical exam, or request an attending physician statement (APS) to confirm that you underwent a successful treatment plan and no longer have sleep apnea. 

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What types of life insurance are available if you have sleep apnea?

Term life insurance and whole life insurance are the two most common types of coverage options for most people, including those with sleep apnea. However, deciding between term life and whole life will, in most cases, have more to do with your financial situation and coverage goals than with your health condition. 

Term life insurance

You can qualify for term life insurance if you have sleep apnea. You will likely need to take a medical exam for approval, especially if your sleep apnea is classified as moderate or severe.

Term is generally appropriate if you are looking to provide protection for your loved ones during your peak earning years. It is usually much more affordable than whole, and it can last between 10 and 40 years, depending on the term you choose.

Whole life insurance

Like with term, you can still apply for whole life insurance if you have sleep apnea. The application process will be similar — the insurance company will review your medical history to determine your premiums based on your health, and you may have to take a medical exam. 

Whole is a type of permanent life insurance. It provides lifelong coverage, and usually has a cash value component that can be used as an investment vehicle. Whole life insurance is generally more appropriate for complex estate planning needs. Whole premiums are generally five to 15 times more expensive than term.

How much does life insurance cost if you have sleep apnea?

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea but have failed to follow the proper treatment prescribed by your physician, your life insurance rates could increase as much as 50%. 

Sleep apnea increases your insurance risk because, if left untreated, the disruptions to your sleep and breathing can lead to daytime sleepiness (and therefore injuries or accidents) and other potentially serious conditions, like high blood pressure and heart disease.

The type of sleep apnea you have won’t necessarily impact your rates, but the underlying cause can matter. For example, if your sleep apnea is caused by heart disease, that medical condition will also affect your rates. Life insurance companies will use the underwriting process to determine the risk of insuring you. 

If, on the other hand, your sleep apnea is well under control, your condition could have little to no impact on your life insurance policy rates — it will all depend on your overall health.

20-year term life insurance rates for people with sleep apnea

AgeSexNon-smokerSmoker
25Female$31.93$73.48
Male$39.34$95.25
35Female$38.54$101.36
Male$46.39$128.59
45Female$76.49$225.35
Male$96.97$302.87
55Female$169.65$491.85
Male$239.49$693.49

Methodology: Rates are calculated for male and female smokers and non-smokers in a Standard health classification, obtaining a 20-year, $500,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 5/26/2022.

How sleep apnea affects health classifications

The severity of your condition and other factors, including your height-to-weight ratio and oxygen saturation levels, will determine the health classification you’re assigned during your life insurance application. Your health classification, in turn, affects your cost of life insurance.

Each insurer weighs these health factors differently. The best way to find a provider that will offer you the most affordable policy for your personal situation is to work with an independent broker. At Policygenius, our experts are licensed in all 50 states and can walk you through the entire life insurance buying process while offering transparent, unbiased advice.

The best life insurance companies for people with sleep apnea

Every insurer weighs a sleep apnea diagnosis differently. During your application for life insurance coverage, expect to answer questions about your date of diagnosis, your last sleep study, and your treatment plan. 

According to 2022 data, applicants with sleep apnea are more likely to qualify for the best or second-best rates with the following Policygenius partners:

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies for people with sleep apnea

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We don't get paid for our company reviews and use an extensive rubric of criteria covering policy details, price, financial confidence, third-party ratings, and customer experience to assign unbiased ratings out of five stars. Any recommendations we make are based on internal and external expert opinions and data from our Policygenius Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends.

Our ratings and reviews can help point you to an insurer you can rely on for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you is dependent on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can work with you through the application process so you’re getting coverage from the best insurer for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

→ Read more about our reviews methodology here

Best overall for people with sleep apnea

AIG

4.6

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

AIG logo

AIG offers competitive life insurance coverage to people with sleep apnea — regardless of severity. Even if you don’t qualify for AIG’s best rates, you may still pay less in premiums with AIG than you would with other insurers.

Pros

  • Competitive pricing for all ages

  • Customizable term policies

  • Benefits common health conditions

  • Strong financial confidence

Cons

  • Below average customer ratings

  • No no-medical-exam options available

If you have sleep apnea, you can qualify for some of the most affordable rates with AIG, assuming you otherwise qualify for life insurance. AIG also has a quicker average turnaround compared to other insurers, which can result in a more seamless application process.

Best for mild sleep apnea

Brighthouse Financial

4.3

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Brighthouse Financial logo

People with mild and well-controlled sleep apnea qualify to apply with Brighthouse Financial, assuming you have no other health issues. Brighthouse offers a non-medical application process that can provide a quicker path to approval.

Pros

  • Fast-tracked coverage with SimplySelect

  • Very affordable

  • Convertible options available

Cons

  • Only few term lengths available

  • No rate reconsideration

Brighthouse Financial is a great choice for people with well-controlled sleep apnea and an average height-to-weight ratio. It offers competitive life insurance coverage rates, comprehensive coverage, and application decisions in as little as 24 hours.

Best for well-controlled sleep apnea

Lincoln Financial

4.7

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Lincoln Financial logo

Lincoln Financial offers favorable rates to people with well-controlled sleep apnea. If you have mild sleep apnea, you may even qualify for Lincoln’s non-medical product, meaning you could have a quicker and easier path to approval.

Pros

  • No-medical-exam option available

  • Fast turnaround

Cons

  • Expensive permanent policies

  • Few online tools

Lincoln Financial offers competitive options, even if you have moderate sleep apnea. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be required to take a medical exam, but you will still have coverage options from a top-rated insurer.

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What do life insurance companies consider when you’re applying?

During your initial phone interview and medical exam, you’ll be asked about your sleep apnea and other medical information. If you consistently use a device to improve your breathing overnight and report fewer sleep disturbances, you’re more likely to get more favorable premiums. But if there are indications that your sleep apnea isn’t well-managed — like you recently had an accident caused by lack of sleep — or if you smoke or have other health concerns that can make your sleep apnea worse, your premiums will be higher. 

Expect to be asked about the following factors, each of which can impact your rates:

Apnea hypopnea index and oxygen levels

Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed using some form of sleep study or monitoring. The life insurance company will want the results of your most recent study, which will include the following data:

  • Apnea hypopnea index (AHI)/respiratory disturbance index (RDI): Number of pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing per hour of sleep

  • Oxygen saturation: A measure of your blood oxygen levels, which decreases if breathing is paused or shallow

Date of diagnosis

The life insurance company will likely request an attending physician statement (APS) to better understand your condition. How long you’ve had your diagnosis — and sometimes your age when you were first diagnosed — can change which rates you qualify for.

Some insurance providers are more likely to give lower rates to applicants who have had a sleep apnea diagnosis for two years or more. The lengthier period makes it easier to assess the severity of your symptoms and your ability to manage the condition long term.

Height-to-weight ratio

If your sleep apnea is related to being overweight, it may make more sense to seek an insurance provider that will offer better rates to someone with your build first. An independent insurance broker like Policygenius can help you identify companies that will offer more affordable quotes for both your height-to-weight ratio and your sleep apnea diagnosis.

Treatment history

In general, chronic conditions like sleep apnea will result in higher life insurance quotes. But if you’re taking active steps to treat your condition and your diagnosis is mild, you should be able to get insured at an affordable price.

What happens if your sleep apnea gets better?

Some insurance companies allow you to apply for reconsideration if you receive a below-average health classification due to a condition one to two years following your original application. Some companies, however, do not guarantee reconsideration for health conditions. If you are not able to apply for reconsideration, you can always apply for a new policy at a more favorable health class to determine which option will be most cost-efficient for you to keep. A Policygenius expert can help direct you to a company with guidelines that might suit your specific needs.

Can your life insurance policy be canceled if your sleep apnea gets worse?

No, once you have been approved for life insurance and place your policy in force, changes in your health condition will not affect your existing policy. However, if you were to cancel your policy and apply for a new one, you would likely have to pay higher premiums. 

What to know before you apply

Make sure to have a diagnosis and a proper treatment plan in place. For moderate or severe sleep apnea, it can be easier to get approved after six months from the date of your original diagnosis, assuming you have been properly following the treatment prescribed by your physician. You can even wait until your sleep apnea has improved to increase your chances of getting a better rate.

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What to do if you’re denied coverage or your quote is too expensive

Sometimes the life insurance policy you’re offered is more expensive than you expected, or you may even be denied coverage due to your sleep apnea. You still have options to get coverage at the right price for you: 

  • Reduce your coverage: Your final rates can sometimes increase after a review of medical records. If the cost is more than you planned to spend, you can choose to reduce either the term length (say, from 30 to 20 years) or the coverage amount (like from $500,000 to $250,000), which can lower your overall cost. 

  • Reapply with a different insurance company: Since the application process is non-binding, you can turn down your offer if the final price is too high, and apply with a different insurer. Reapplying with a new insurer is also an option if you were denied coverage. If you apply for life insurance through Policygenius, an expert can help you reapply with a different insurance company without having to start the whole application process again from scratch.

  • Revisit your treatment plan: You can work with your doctor to ensure you have a plan to improve or control your sleep apnea. Once your sleep apnea has been well under control for six months to a year, you can reapply.

Frequently asked questions

Does sleep apnea disqualify you from life insurance?

Having sleep apnea will not automatically disqualify you from buying life insurance. You may receive higher quotes, but if you’re treating your condition and otherwise showing improving health, you may not pay much more.

Do people with sleep apnea pay more for life insurance?

If you have severe sleep apnea, aren’t adhering to a consistent treatment plan, or are contributing to the risks of your condition (e.g., by continuing to smoke cigarettes), you’ll pay more for coverage.

Do all life insurance companies treat sleep apnea the same way?

You may have a better chance of getting the best rates with some insurers, like AIG, Lincoln Financial, or Brighthouse Financial. The best company for you depends on your age, other health conditions, and family health history.

Does COVID-19 affect the life insurance application process or eligibility?

Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy for your personal situation.

Is sleep apnea considered a pre-existing condition for life insurance?

Yes, life insurance is different from health insurance in that your rates can be affected by your health conditions at the time of application. While life insurance companies consider sleep apnea a pre-existing condition, some of them offer affordable coverage options, especially if your sleep apnea is under control and you’re following a treatment plan.