Missing sleep can increase life insurance rates

We’re not accusing you of snoring, but let’s get technical for a moment. When you fall asleep, the soft tissues in your body relax, and sometimes block your airways. Snoring is your body’s way of moving soft tissue out of the way. If you have a sleep disorder, the best way to get insurance at an afforable rate is to get treated. “Without proper sleep, the body is under stress and releases hormones to combat that, this increases blood pressure— and the body literally goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode,” says Tom Hinerman, partner for the Hinerman Group in Salida, Colo. For people with chronic-sleep disorders, snoring can sound like a chain-saw symphony. And often, snoring is an indication of a serious sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Depending on severity, as the airways close, a person can stop breathing five to 50 times during the night. More often than not, people with sleep apnea are literally gasping for air during the night while their bodies fight to get enough oxygen.

Disrupted sleep is deadly—even that precious hour lost during daylight savings time can have hazardous consequences. An article published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that losing an hour of sleep increases the threat of on-the-job injuries for those in hazardous work environments.

“One hour of lost sleep may not seem like a lot. But our findings suggest it could have an impact on people’s ability to stay alert on the job,” says the article’s lead author, Christopher Barnes, Ph.D. and researcher from Michigan State University.

Although sleep disorders like apnea and interrupted sleep are very treatable, unless you show proof of following doctor-recommended treatments, it will lead to increased life insurance rates.

To qualify for standard life insurance rates, Hinerman says, you need to have a sleep study done, and then follow your doctor-recommended treatment schedule closely.

“Depending on the severity some people can use machines like the CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine to correct breathing overnight can help to eliminate symptoms of sleep apnea,” said Hinerman.

“If an individual applies for life insurance within the first year after starting CPAP, we would generally offer a policy with a small extra premium,” says Robert Pokorski, a medical director for The Hartford. “If he or she has been using CPAP for more than a year, and if all is going well from a medical perspective, in most cases there would be no additional premium required for sleep apnea.”

Pokorski also recommends following the general guidelines for the best insurance rates, like maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure, avoiding smoking, sedatives, and excessive alcohol consumption.

“You may also want to sleep on two or more pillows to make it easier to breath at night,” adds Pokorski.

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“The final offer to the applicant would represent the combined risk of sleep apnea and other medical conditions that might be present,” says Pokorski. “If there are no other medical conditions that affect the overall risk, we would generally offer life insurance at standard, and sometimes, preferred rates.”

No matter how mild your symptoms, lying about your condition will not help your rates.

  “If a person does not disclose a sleep disorder during the [initial] interview, we will eventually find out, because the interview is followed by a medical evaluation… and information about a sleep disorder would show up in their medical history,” says Hinerman.

 If you lie about a sleeping disorder, you could be rejected for life insurance, or worse, be denied a payout if the condition causes an accident or injury. And that’s just not worth losing sleep over.

Sleep disorders affect more than 70 million people in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. While The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Second Edition documents 81 official sleep disorders, here are seven of the most common.

1. Restless Leg Syndrome or Wittmaack-Ekbom’s Syndrome is characterized by a patients inability to stop their legs from moving while sitting or lying down, according to The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, an organization concerned with awareness and treatment of the condition. RLS usually disrupts normal sleeping patterns and women are more likely than men to develop the disorder.

2. Narcolepsy- Mayo Clinic defines narcolepsy as a sudden and uncontrollable need to sleep that occurs at times that are outside of a regular

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