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Life Insurance and Sleep Apnoea

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.

The most common sleep disorders I see in clients applying for life insurance are:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
  2. Insomnia
  3. Narcolepsy

Let’s go through each one in turn.

Does sleep apnoea affect your life insurance or mortgage protection?

Before I started this job, I didn’t really know what sleep apnoea was.

I figured it was just a case of severe snoring.

How wrong I was.

Sleep apnoea is a very serious medical condition.

There are three types of sleep apnoea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
    This is the most severe. During sleep, the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses, closes and prevents normal breathing.
  • Central Sleep Apnoea:
    Less severe. Here part of the brain that controls breathing fails to function routinely
  • Mixed Apnoea:
    A combination of the above is less common.

So what is sleep apnoea?

It’s a common sleep disorder where you temporarily stop breathing during sleep due to a blockage of your upper airways.

While asleep, you may stop breathing for between 10 to 25 seconds at a time, depleting the bloodstream and brain of vital oxygen supplies.

The brain then suddenly jolts into action, telling you to wake up and gasp for air.

In one single night, sufferers may experience up to 350 apnoeic events.

These frequent interruptions of deep sleep lead to excessive daytime fatigue and sleepiness putting you at risk of having an accident while awake.

Sleep apnoea is a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to strokes, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

As a result, life insurance underwriters approach applications with great caution.

What information does a life insurer need?

If you suffer from sleep apnoea you have an increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, hypertension and causing a road accident.

The insurers will consider all of these factors when underwriting your application.

The underwriters will write to your GP for a medical report which should have the results of your latest sleep test (polysomnography).

This test shows the severity of your sleep apnoea so your GP can recommend treatment.

Your GP will also comment on whether you have followed their recommended treatment.

How much does life insurance cost for sleep apnoea sufferers?

If you can get cover, you can expect a loading on the price of your cover due to the risk to your health.

By how much is impossible to say.

It depends whether your condition is mild, moderate or severe (use of a Constant Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine) and whether you have any associated conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, heart issues).

How does insomnia affect life insurance?

Insomnia is a prolonged inability to sleep properly.

It’s usually associated with an underlying condition such as stress or anxiety.

The insurer will be most interested in this underlying condition.

Insomnia shouldn’t be a problem for life insurance as long as you have addressed the underlying issues causing the symptoms.

What about narcolepsy and life insurance?

If you suffer from narcolepsy (falling asleep during the day), the biggest danger for the insurers is your risk of falling asleep while driving.

Narcolepsy will not usually affect your ability to get life cover.

But the insurers will have to rule out organic brain disease and confirm there is no history of injuries or accidents.

Over to you…

You don’t really need to worry about insomnia and narcolepsy as long as there is no underlying medical condition.

But sleep apnoea is a serious condition that the insurers underwrite strictly.

As a result, if you have the condition and you need life insurance, you should work closely with a specialist insurance broker.

The broker 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 apnoea

If you have sleep apnoea and you attempt to get life insurance on your own, you may waste a lot of time and end up with nothing but decline letters.

You’ll have to disclose any declines you receive to the next company you apply to.

Previous declines will put the next insurer on alert.

Because even if the new insurer wants to offer you cover they’ll doubt themselves due to the previous decline. 

This will make it more difficult for you to get cover.

The trick is to avoid a decline by only applying to the company that is most likely to approve your policy.

Only an specialist life insurance broker will be able to help you to do that.

If you’d like me to make a recommendation on the types of cover you should consider based on where you are in life, please complete this questionnaire and I’ll be right back.

Nick McGowan | making life insurance easier

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