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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.

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By

Amanda ShihAmanda ShihEditor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertAmanda 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 MurbachKatherine MurbachAssociate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertKatherine 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.

Edited by

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.
Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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

Updated|8 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

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.

The severity of your sleep apnea and other factors, including your height-to-weight ratio, will likely have an impact on your application and premiums. You’re more likely to get lower rates if you have mild to moderate sleep apnea 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'll 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're looking to provide protection for your loved ones during your peak earning years. It's 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 — a condition experienced by nearly 22 million Americans [1] — increases your insurance risk if left untreated.

This is because 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.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles relax and block your airway while you're sleeping. [2]

However, the type of sleep apnea — including central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea, which are less common — won't necessarily impact your rates as long a you're following your treatment plan.

On the other hand, the underlying cause of your sleep apnea can have an impact on how much you'll pay for life insurance.

For example, if your sleep apnea is caused by heart disease, that medical condition will also affect your rates. Or, if your sleep apnea is caused by obesity, your height-to-weight ratio will be taken into account as well.

Life insurance companies will use the underwriting process to determine the risk of insuring you. If your sleep apnea is well under control, your condition could have a minimal 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

Age

Sex

Non-smoker

Smoker

25

Female

$31.66

$73.47

Male

$38.40

$95.22

35

Female

$38.00

$101.40

Male

$45.70

$128.53

45

Female

$75.97

$225.29

Male

$96.53

$302.76

55

Female

$169.18

$491.07

Male

$238.96

$693.10

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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, Symetra, 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 02/01/2023.

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 of February 2023

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 2023 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 of 2023

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

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2023 Policygenius award winner

Pacific Life

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.8

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A+

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

All 50 states

No-med-exam option

Why we chose it

Pacific Life offers some of the lowest rates for term life insurance across age brackets. It also has the most competitive rates for many health conditions and builds.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Extremely affordable across age brackets

  • Affordable guaranteed universal life insurance option for people who need lifetime coverage

  • Favorable underwriting for many health conditions

Cons

  • Traditional term life not available in NY

  • There are better carriers for active duty military, people who have a history of alcohol abuse, and people who have been through bankruptcy

If you have sleep apnea, you can qualify for some of the most affordable rates with Pacific Life, assuming you otherwise qualify for life insurance. If you have mild sleep apnea, use a CPAP machine as treatment, and don’t smoke, you may qualify for up to Preferred rates, which is the second-best health classification.

If your sleep apnea is moderate to severe, Pacific Life may be able to offer you more competitive pricing than other insurers.

Best for mild sleep apnea

Transamerica

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.6

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-med-exam option

Why we chose it

Transamerica is one of the oldest and largest life insurance companies, with over 12 million active accounts today. It offers affordable rates for almost every age, and you can even skip the medical exam if you fall under a certain age or coverage amount.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Competitive rates for term life insurance

  • No-medical-exam available for qualifying applicants, including smokers and people between 60 and 70, which is rare

  • One of the fastest turnaround times in the industry for traditionally underwritten term policies

Cons

  • Term life not available in New York

  • Not a good option for people with a history of cancer, alcohol abuse, or asthma

Transamerica is a great choice for people with well-controlled sleep apnea and an average height-to-weight ratio. It offers competitive life insurance rates and comprehensive coverage. 

Transamerica also allows you to complete health questions online or over the phone first — the insurance company will review the answers to your health questionnaire before requesting an in-person medical exam.

If you’re consistent with your treatment and don’t have many other health conditions, you may not have to take an exam.

Best for well-controlled sleep apnea

award icon

2023 Policygenius award winner

Lincoln Financial

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.8

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-med-exam option

Why we chose it

Lincoln Financial offers a diverse array of life insurance policies, including competitive no-med and high-net-worth options.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Affordable rates

  • Good for many existing health conditions, including depression, stroke, and heart conditions

  • Good for marijuana users, including daily users

Cons

  • Term life not available in New York

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.

Ready to shop for life insurance for people with sleep apnea?

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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 higher rate due to a condition one to two years following your original application. Some companies, however, do not guarantee reconsideration for health conditions.

If you can’t apply for reconsideration, you can apply for a new policy to see if the insurance company can approve you at a cheaper rate. If you can get approved at a more favorable health class on your new policy, you can always cancel the previous one.

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'd 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've 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.

Ready to shop for life insurance for people with sleep apnea?

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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 higher than you can afford, you can choose to reduce either the term length or the coverage amount, which can lower your overall cost. For example, you could reduce a 30-year term to a 20-year term, or $500,000 in coverage to $250,000 in coverage.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance

Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.

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, an inconsistent treatment history, or contributing lifestyle risks (e.g., smoking 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 lower rates with some insurers, like Pacific Life, Transamrica, or Lincoln Financial. The best company for you depends on your age, other health conditions, and family health history.

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.

Do you need to tell life insurance companies about sleep apnea?

Yes, you should disclose all health conditions — including sleep apnea — to the life insurance company. Your application details will be confirmed against your medical records before you're approved for coverage.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. American Sleep Apnea Association

    . "

    Sleep Apnea Information for Clinicians

    ." Accessed November 21, 2022.

  2. Mayo Clinic

    . "

    Sleep Apnea

    ." Accessed November 21, 2022.

Authors

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 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.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

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

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