Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

  1. Social Security
  2. Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Man with sleep apnea snoring

One of the severe side effects of sleep apnea can be chronic exhaustion. If extreme enough, it may even prevent you from holding down employment. Social Security Disability may be able to help. Sleep apnea sufferers who meet specific symptom requirements may benefit from this federal government program.


What is Sleep Apnea, and what are the symptoms?


Man asleep with sleep apnea

When your breathing pauses while sleeping, this is sleep apnea. This pause may cause you to gasp for air, snore, or experience prolonged delays in your breathing. Chronic fatigue, daytime drowsiness, and insomnia are common side effects.


There are two types of this sleep disorder: central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive apnea is the more common type and occurs when your airway has physical blockages during sleep. 

Central apnea is less common and occurs when your brain does not send signals to your muscles to breathe. Complex apnea is when you suffer from both types of sleep disorders.

Sleep apnea can have long-term health consequences if left untreated. It may increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you suspect you may suffer from this disorder, it is essential to seek medical treatment.


What are the causes of Sleep Apnea, and how is it treated?

There are several factors that can contribute to sleep apnea. These may include:

Man smoking cigarette

  • Obesity or being overweight.
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol or sedative use
  • Large neck size
  • Nasal congestion

While this disorder has no cure, some treatments can help you manage the condition. In some cases, lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation or weight loss may help improve your symptoms.

Woman sleeping with CPAP machine

If lifestyle changes do not help, your physician may recommend the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine helps to keep your airway open during sleep.



A newer FDA-approved medical device has come on the scene and is growing in popularity. The “Inspire device” has a remote you turn on before sleep. This device stimulates a particular nerve that assists in opening your airways when you need to breathe. There are other more in-depth surgical options, but these are usually only recommended if other treatments fail.


How does Social Security Disability help Sleep Apnea sufferers?

If severe enough, sleep apnea may prevent you from working. If this is the case, you may qualify for disability benefits. However, you must meet specific requirements.

  • First, you must have been employed in positions covered by Social Security, 
  • Secondly, your medical condition must meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
  • Lastly, your medical records must indicate that your health situation will last at least 12 months or result in death.


Is Sleep Apnea a disability?

The SSA does not recognize sleep apnea as a disability. Conversely, if your sleep disorder is severe enough, you may meet eligibility standards based on other symptoms that result.

To qualify for benefits, you must meet SSD’s definition of disabled. Their definition includes these conditions:

  • Your symptoms must prevent you from working or earning a living.
  • You must have suffered from your disability for at least 12 months in the past, or doctors expect you to have a disability for at least 12 months.

How can I potentially qualify for SSD with a sleep apnea disorder?

The SSA lists include breathing disorders, heart problems, and mental issues. If you meet the criteria of an SSD listing due to your sleep disorder, you may qualify for disability benefits. Some complications may include chronic pulmonary hypertensionchronic heart failuremood disturbances, behavioral issues, and severe cognitive deficits. While these are some of the symptoms, this list is not inclusive, and sleep disorders must be discussed with your physician to determine if other troubles are from your sleep apnea.


Parmele Law Firm Can Help

If you believe your daily work life is affected, contact our legal team at 866-889-2570 to schedule your no-cost consultation. The disability process can be lengthy, confusing, and overwhelming. Allow our team of attorneys with over 120-plus years of disability experience to help. The legal team at PLF is here to guide you through this process with integrity, competency, and experience.


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