There is not a “listing” for sleep apnea. Listings are criteria for specific medical conditions where, if the requirements are satisfied, the claimant will be automatically be found medically disabled. The listings that might be applicable to sleep apnea concern other medical conditions.
Social Security writes:
“We evaluate the complications of sleep-related breathing disorders under the listings in the affected body system(s). For example, we evaluate chronic pulmonary hypertension due to any cause under 3.09; chronic heart failure under 4.02; and disturbances in mood, cognition, and behavior under 12.02 or another appropriate mental disorders listing. We will not purchase polysomnography (sleep study).”
While it is possible to “equal” one of the listings described above, it is challenging. All hope, however, is not lost. It is still possible to be found disabled even if the claimant does not meet or equal the requirements of a listing. What is required is an analysis of the adverse effects a claimant’s sleep apnea would have on his or her ability to work.
The most prevalent symptom of sleep apnea that prevents work is excessive sleepiness. Sleep apnea prevents one from ever becoming fully rested. The breaks in breathing thrust the body into panic and shock while sleeping, causing a claimant to be unable to maintain sleep for prolonged periods or sleep at all. Forms of insomnia are common in those who suffer from sleep apnea. If sleep apnea is causing an employee to fall asleep while working, or not being able to concentrate during work periods, that employee most likely will be unable to work and therefore be disabled.
Sleep apnea can also be psychologically detrimental. Depression and even forms of psychosis aren’t uncommon. The brain needs sleep as much as the body. When it doesn’t get the required rest and fuel from sleep, the mind will start to break down. Depression can result in such a feeling of hopelessness and despair that getting out of bed becomes an impossible task. Such everyday activities of daily living (showering, dressing, socializing, shopping) become too much to bear. If sleep apnea has such a substantial negative consequence that a claimant is suffering these symptoms, he or she may qualify for Social Security Disability or SSI.