Life Insurance and Sleep Apnoea – What you need to know

15 min Read Published: 07 Dec 2020

Life Insurance and Sleep ApnoeaSleep Apnoea is a reasonably common condition that is, in most cases, easily managed with treatment or changes to lifestyle. In rarer cases it can be more difficult to control and so could lead to other complications, which we explain more detail later int his article. If you have Sleep Apnoea and have perhaps tried and struggled to arrange life insurance or you want to start looking into it, this article will help you to get the best cover at the cheapest price with your condition. I'll explain exactly what information relating to your sleep apnoea will be important to the insurer and what you can expect to pay.

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What is Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea is a sleep disorder that means a person has an abnormal amount of shallow and paused breathing while they sleep. The condition can affect a person's ability to concentrate and focus during waking periods and in more pronounced cases, affect a person's ability to stay awake even after a full night of sleep. The condition is often associated with being overweight, smoking or drinking alcohol. It is also common in those that have larger than normal tonsils or adenoids as well as those who have family members who suffer with it.

Often, reducing your weight or a reduction in alcohol intake and smoking can help to alleviate the symptoms. If symptoms persist then usually a sleep assessment is required. By monitoring a person's heart rate and breathing during the night, the monitor provides tangible evidence to work out the Apnoea Hypopnea Index (AHI). The results may suggest that using a CPAP machine will help.  This machine, when worn at night, provides air to lessen the symptoms of Sleep Apnoea and reduce any associated risks. Sleep Apnoea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and low moods. Tiredness can reduce a person's ability to concentrate and focus and in turn cause accidents whilst driving or using machinery.

What will a Life Insurance company ask me about my Sleep Apnoea?

A life insurance company will want to know that your symptoms have been fully investigated. You should have a conclusive diagnosis and be able to confirm the details listed below (the insurer will usually write to your GP for details that you're unable to provide).

Sleep Apnoea details for Life Insurance Application

  • Your specific diagnosis
  • Details of your symptoms
  • Details of any tests or investigations
  • Details of your treatment
  • Your Apnoea Hypopnea Index (AHI) Score
  • Details of any other medical conditions

Once the insurer has all of your information, an underwriter (the person who assesses your application against the insurance company's guidelines) will make a decision.

Will I need to attend a medical examination to get life insurance if I have Sleep Apnoea?

A medical examination is rarely requested for Sleep Apnoea specifically. However, there are automatic triggers for a medical examination depending on how much insurance you request combined with your age. These levels aren't the same for all insurance companies and vary from a basic health check to a full medical examination.

How much will Life Insurance cost if I have Sleep Apnoea?

The good news is that most Sleep Apnoea sufferers will not pay any more for life insurance because of their condition. As long as the condition is controlled and you don't suffer with any other conditions that increase the risks associated with Sleep Apnoea, you are more than likely to receive a standard decision for your application. This means that the cost of the insurance and the terms offered are the same as a person of your age and smoker status who doesn't have Sleep Apnoea. There are some instances where the cost for your life, critical illness or income protection could be increased or your application decision is postponed. To help you understand what to expect, I have detailed each scenario in the tables below.

Factors that contribute to risks associated with Sleep Apnoea

  • AHI Score - this index shows the severity of the condition and is measured using a sleep monitor.
  • Raised BMI - your body mass index worked out using your height and weight.
  • Cardiac condition - high blood pressure, angina, arrhythmia or other cardiac conditions that may increase the cardiac risk when combined with Sleep Apnoea.
  • Smoking - smoking increases your cardiac risk and how much you smoke will be assessed in combination with your Sleep Apnoea.
  • Risky occupation - if you have symptoms of tiredness or lack of concentration during the day and are required to drive or operate machinery, this increases the chances of having an accident.
Factors associated with Sleep Apnoea Likely Outcome for a Life Insurance Application
AHI Score is below 15 No increase to cost
AHI Score is 16 - 30 50-100% increase to cost
AHI Score is more than 30 100-200% increase to cost
BMI is high for age 50% increase to cost
HBP or other Cardiac Condition 50% increase to cost or more depending on condition and control
Smoker 50% increase to cost + Smoker rates will apply
Heavy Smoker 50-100% increase to cost + Smoker rates will apply
Symptoms of daytime tiredness & Occupation that involves driving or operating machinery 50-100% increase to cost depending on severity of symptoms
Investigations not complete Application will be postponed
Severe and uncontrolled symptoms Requires specialist advice

Important Note - If you need to disclose more than one of the factors that causes an increase to your premium, you may be charged more than just one increase but not necessarily the sum of all increases that apply to you. 

Can I get Critical Illness Insurance if I have Sleep Apnoea?

For critical illness insurance, underwriters need to weigh up how much more likely you are to claim for diagnosis of a serious illness.  Sleep Apnoea can present a greater risk for illnesses such as Stroke and Heart Attack therefore the increases to cost will be larger.  This doesn't mean that you can't arrange it within your budget. However, it does mean that you should speak to a specialist critical illness adviser to ensure that you're applying to the best insurance company for your specific health. A specialist adviser will be able to do some research across the market before you complete an application form so that it saves you time and money. I have detailed an expectation of outcome if you apply for Critical Illness Insurance below too.

Factors associated with Sleep Apnoea Likely Outcome for A Critical Illness Insurance Application
AHI Score is below 15 No or minimal increase to cost
AHI Score is 16 - 30 100-200% increase to cost
AHI Score is more than 30 Requires specialist advice
BMI High for Age 50-100% increase to cost
Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure 50-100% increase to cost
Smoker 100-200% increase to cost + Smoker rates will apply
Heavy Smoker 100-200% increase to cost + Smoker rates will apply
Symptoms of daytime tiredness & Occupation that involves driving or operating machinery
50-100% increase to cost + total and permanent disability cover is likely to excluded
Investigations not complete Application will be postponed
Severe and uncontrolled symptoms Requires specialist advice

Important Note - If you need to disclose more than one of the factors that causes an increase to your premium, you may be charged more than just one increase but not necessarily the sum of all increases that apply to you. Use this form*  to arrange a callback from a specialist adviser in this area.

Can I get Income Protection if I have Sleep Apnoea?

Income Protection insurance pays you an income if you become incapacitated to work through illness or injury. The likelihood of needing time off work due to Sleep Apnoea can be increased, especially if your job requires a greater degree of concentration, for example, driving, operating machinery, etc. For this reason, it is important to get the help of a specialist income protection adviser.  The adviser will be able to do research of the market on your behalf to establish which company will offer you the best rates and terms for the insurance.  I have also detailed an indication of the terms that you might expect below.

Factors associated with Sleep Apnoea Likely Outcome for An Income Protection Insurance Application
AHI Score is below 15 Minimal increase to cost
AHI Score is 16 - 30 100-200% increase to cost
AHI Score is more than 30 Requires specialist advice
BMI High for Age 50-100% increase to cost
Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure 50-100% increase to cost
Smoker 100-200% increase to cost + Smoker rates will apply
Heavy Smoker Requires specialist advice
Symptoms of daytime tiredness & Occupation that involves driving or operating machinery Requires specialist advice
Investigations not complete Application will be postponed
Severe and uncontrolled symptoms Requires specialist advice

Important Note - If you need to disclose more than one of the factors that causes an increase to your premium, you may be charged more than just one increase but not necessarily the sum of all increases that apply to you. Use this form*  to arrange a callback from a specialist adviser in this area.

How to buy life insurance if you have Sleep Apnoea

Arranging life insurance if you have Sleep Apnoea that is mild and well controlled shouldn't be tricky but there will be insurance companies that offer more favourable rates to you than others. This is because all insurance companies assess applications using different guidelines. For this reason, we would recommend that you speak with a specialist adviser who works with the whole market and can hunt for the best policy on your behalf.

At Money to the Masses, we have personally vetted the services of a company that provides independent specialist advice for life, critical illness and income protection insurance. The advisers are trained and knowledgeable and ill be able to provide guidance on which insurance companies to avoid and which to approach in order to get the best terms for your insurance. They will ensure that the policy fits your needs so that it is set up in the correct way. If you're arranging life insurance, it can be very important to set up something called a trust to go with it. A trust lets you nominate who you want the money to go to and avoids any inheritance tax that might need to be paid against the money. An adviser can help set this up free of charge so that you've got peace of mind.

And as a Money to the Masses reader, you'll receive £50 cashback if you arrange your policy.  If you'd like to arrange a callback from an adviser, just complete this form* and they'll be in touch.

 

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