Who’d want to fake sleep apnea and try to fool the sleep study test? A person wanting to scam an insurance company.

A young man wanted to know if he could fool a sleep study test into yielding a positive result for sleep apnea – to gain some kind of insurance benefit of which I don’t recall the details.

But I found his thread in a sleep apnea forum.

Ethics aside, CAN a person fake sleep apnea enough to fool any kind of test for it?

“To my knowledge, not really,” begins Joseph Krainin, MD, board certified in sleep medicine and neurology and founder of the online sleep apnea clinic Singular Sleep.

“You can hold your breath and fake central sleep apnea but, unless you have a serious cardiopulmonary problem such as COPD or congestive heart failure, you likely won’t be able to fake the typical oxygen desaturations that follow these breathing events — so a good sleep doctor will pick up on this,” continues Dr. Krainin.

What would you need to do to fake obstructive or central sleep apnea?


In order to fake sleep apnea, you’d have to be able to be in bed throughout the night while remaining wide awake enough to repeatedly “fake” the condition.

If you let yourself fall asleep, you just botched your scam.

So first of all, you’d have to succeed at fighting the urge to fall asleep – which can be done if you prepare days ahead of time by switching your schedule to that of a night shift worker.

Years ago I got a third shift job and was asked to come in the night of the day I was hired. I said, “I don’t think so, but I can come in the next night.”

And come next night, I had no problem being alert from 11 pm to 7:30 am.

But lying in bed in a dark room can certainly encourage falling asleep even if you’ve trained your body for several days to function alertly on a third shift schedule.

Sleep study

Next, assuming that you CAN just lie there for six, let alone eight hours straight, eyes closed but awake, without going batty, you’d have to frequently stop breathing long enough to become very uncomfortable.

That’s more uncomfortable than you ever were as a child when you’d time with a stop watch how long you could hold your breath or see if you could swim across an entire swimming pool underwater without coming up once for air.

So try doing that, while lying in bed, for at least six hours – let’s say, 10 times an hour.

But remember, you’d have to hold your breath past the point that you did when you were a child (or adult) playing breath-holding games with friends.

But there’s more to faking a sleep apnea test than lying still and awake for at least six hours and repeatedly holding your breath long enough to induce gasping.

Dr. Krainin says, “You can’t really fake valid-looking snoring on a sleep study, and attempting to fake obstructive apneas — if you could even figure out how to approach this — would probably be pretty obvious to an expert reviewer.”

In 2013 Dr. Krainin was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an honor reserved for sleep doctors who’ve made significant contributions to the field in education, research and service. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Maria Sbytova