Sleep apnea is one of those health issues that can elicit anything from a best rate class approval to a decline depending on two things, which company’s underwriter was involved and if you are truly treating the issue seriously.
A layman’s sleep apnea definition might give the wrong impression of why underwriters are concerned. Apnea is actually a period during sleep when a person quits breathing. It is almost always, when they start breathing again, followed by a loud snore or gasping. Sleep apnea is not a mortality issue in the sense that people quit breathing and don’t start again. Think of it as a more severe instance like those when you have been reading or something relaxing and you just haven’t been breathing deeply, and you suddenly have the need for a good deep breath.
So the issue isn’t about whether a person will forget to start breathing or not. Our body takes care of that quite well, albeit a bit loudly. The real issues have to do with the stress put on your body by two things. First, especially in more severe apnea where a person can quit breathing up to 50 times per hour, there is an issue with a lack of oxygen during sleeping hours. The other is that sleep apnea simply disrupts normal sleep patterns and makes for a tired, sleep deprived person the next day.
So the real mortality issues become sleep deprivation and the possibility of a higher rate of accidents, and the oxygen deprivation causing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The other less talked about mortality issue is that your spouse may cause you substantial harm because of your snoring.
So, what do underwriters want to see for optimal results? A good sleep study that defines the problem as mild, moderate or severe. Mild or moderate bring the best results from a rate class standpoint. Probably the biggest issue for an underwriter is what you do about the apnea and how compliant you are with whatever treatment is chosen. If you have a sleep study with a cpap on that shows the cpap reduces your instances of apnea to almost nothing, but you then only use the cpap once in a while, or half the night, compliance is poor and control isn’t good. You aren’t going to win any underwriter points. Surgically corrected obstructive sleep apnea, if success is documented by a study, can put you back into best rate class running barring any other risk factors, such as obesity.
Bottom line. There are real reasons for underwriter caution with sleep apnea, but if you are serious about your approach to treatment there’s no reason you can’t walk away paying very reasonable rates.