Service Dog for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts someone’s breathing as they’re sleeping. Unfortunately, people are at their most vulnerable when they’re sleeping because it’s hard to notice something wrong with the body or its surroundings. For these reasons, treating sleep-related conditions with medications might not be enough. This is where a service dog for sleep apnea comes into play.

Service dogs are trained to help their handlers with a specific case. In the case of sleep apnea, they can wake people up, fetch medications, or get help. Read on to learn more about how service dogs can help with sleep apnea.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can affect people of any age. It impacts both men and women, adults and children. It is a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted while they’re sleeping. The results can lead to a loss of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs and several serious health issues.

It’s unclear precisely how many Americans are affected by sleep apnea, but it’s believed that a majority of those dealing with sleep apnea have never been formally diagnosed simply because they don’t realize it’s happening. In some cases, sleep apnea can close off the airway hundreds of times throughout the night.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea may have a handful of symptoms but they vary based on the person. Symptoms may also come and go depending on body weight and external factors like stress. That said, it is a serious condition that can increase the risk of numerous health problems. We list some of the common symptoms of sleep apnea below:

  • Nightmares
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Snoring
  • Loud breathing or breathing through the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Throat fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

These are some of the most common symptoms but complications can occur. We list some of these complications below

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Heart attacks

Addressing sleep apnea with the proper treatments recommended by a medical professional is essential to prevent complications.

What Are the Treatments for Sleep Apnea?

There are numerous options available for people dealing with sleep apnea, including devices that regulate oxygen flow, sleeping in a different position, and even losing weight. Some of the primary risk factors associated with sleep apnea include having a family history of sleep apnea, having large tonsils or a small jawbone, being overweight, having allergies or sinus problems, and men are more at risk of sleep apnea than women.

While there are various treatment options for sleep apnea, a service dog can be a benefit for those struggling with a severe case of this medical condition. A service dog is available for numerous physical and mental health issues, including sleep apnea.

How Would a Service Dog Help Someone with Sleep Apnea?

One of the most significant impacts sleep apnea can have on a person is waking up feeling tired, run-down, and as though they didn’t get a restful night’s sleep at all. This can impact every part of their day, including resulting in poor performance at work or school, being distracted or unfocused behind the wheel of an automobile, and even developing a short temperament.

A service dog can positively impact a person’s life when they’re dealing with sleep apnea in numerous ways. Perhaps one of the most significant is providing companionship and another physical presence to be alert for various dangers and hazards throughout the day.

A service dog may also be able to alert a person with sleep apnea when they’re experiencing significant sleep problems throughout the night. Oftentimes, sleep apnea can result in anxiety as the individual is worried, can’t seem to solve problems as easily because of a lack of sleep, and so forth.

Service dogs can also help with sleep apnea in the following ways:

  • Fetching medications
  • Getting help if someone is not breathing
  • Providing support when someone is feeling sleep-deprived or depressed 
  • Keeping a sleep apnea mask in place
  • Helping someone stay in the right sleeping position

Depending on how sleep apnea impacts your life, service dogs may be able to help in other ways as well.

Understanding What a Service Dog for Sleep Apnea Is

Many times when people hear the term “service dog,” they envision a seeing-eye dog or a police K-9 officer. Dogs can be trained to perform numerous tasks and the term service dog covers a wide range of support animals and services.

Service dogs are specifically trained to perform various tasks for an individual with a disability. Whether that disability involves blindness, anxiety, or even sleep apnea, these service dogs can alert a person who has a serious medical condition, seek out assistance for that individual, and calm a person during a stressful time, especially somebody who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and several other important duties.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides legal protections for men and women who require the support of a service dog. Through these protections, service animals, most commonly dogs, can go into various businesses and other locations where regular animals that are not service animals are not permitted. This can often include public buildings, restaurants, malls, and other similar venues.

Each state and even municipality may have different regulations that govern the use of service dogs, but according to the ADA, “state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

The Training Service Dogs for Sleep Apnea Receive

A service dog is different from a regular dog in the level of training that he or she receives. Not every dog is going to become a service dog because they need to meet specific criteria to be considered a service dog.


Their temperament is one of the most critical factors. A service dog needs to not become overwhelmed and stressed easily. The animal should have no problem being touched and petted and not act aggressively, growl, or become easily defensive while in certain situations. In short, a service dog needs to be extremely calm, even in difficult, stressful situations.


A service dog must be social and friendly While out in public, these service animals will be approached repeatedly by numerous people, especially children who don’t realize the importance of respecting their space, and they will want to pet, ogle the animal, and otherwise invade the animal’s space. These service dogs must remain calm, not become overly enthusiastic, and still be social.


They must also learn to adapt to different environments. A service dog may go into a loud place of business or public square, be exposed to fireworks at different times throughout the year, for example, and must be able to adapt and not get wound up, anxious, nervous, or seek to pull away.

Specialized Training

The last bit of training that service dogs receive is specialized. This is the training that helps them perform a specific task for their handler. Typically, this training is done by a professional trainer and it can take several years to train a dog to help someone with a condition as delicate as sleep apnea.

The training required to help a service dog achieve these milestones is often lengthy and usually begins when the animal is a puppy. As can be seen, a service dog for somebody with sleep apnea or any other physical or mental health condition requires significant training and is dedicated to the person they serve for as long as required.

How Can a Person Get a Service Dog

For somebody who has been dealing with sleep apnea for any length of time, they may wake up feeling exhausted, as though they didn’t get any rest, they may begin feeling anxious, nervous, or worried about their condition, or are experiencing near misses, mishaps, and accidents because of a lack of focus.

A person with sleep apnea could potentially get a service dog, but the owner needs to meet specific criteria. To get a service dog for somebody with sleep apnea, they must have a diagnosed physical or mental disability that negatively impacts or impairs their day-to-day activities, safety, and have a demonstrable need for a service animal that will directly support their specific illness. 

If you’re the one who is experiencing sleep apnea and are considering a service dog, if you haven’t done so already you will need to make an appointment and see your primary physician and discuss the potential of a service dog supporting you.

You will need to be present while your dog is being trained for this specific supported task. You will also need to have the ability to provide commands and to care properly for your service dog. You need to have a stable home environment and have the required financial means to properly support and care for the animal.

How Much Does a Service Dog for Sleep Apnea Cost?

A service dog can be an extreme expense because of the training involved. Simply training a service dog can run anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000. On top of these expenses, you also need to consider the cost of food, care, grooming, and veterinary expenses.

Various non-profit organizations can help those with documentable medical needs afford the training and support of a service dog, so even if you can’t afford this out-of-pocket, that doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from enjoying the benefits of a service dog office.

Does Everyone with Sleep Apnea Qualify for a Service Dog?

Not everyone is going to qualify for a service dog. Even if you don’t qualify for a service dog at this time because your physician doesn’t believe the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are that serious yet or for some other reason, you may still consider an emotional support dog.

An emotional support animal (ESA) does require a letter from your physician, which acts like a prescription for the dog. While you can use your ESA to provide emotional support, they don’t always enjoy the same benefits within public spaces that registered service dogs do.

To find out if you qualify for an ESA for sleep apnea, you can reach out to US Service Animals here.

What Other Sleep Conditions Can Service Dogs Help With?

Service dogs are equipped to help with numerous conditions, which means that their services don’t have to stop at sleep apnea. As long as the person can be woken up by the dog, they can help with the condition. We list some of the other sleep conditions that service dogs can help with below:

  • Nightmares: Service dogs can wake up their owners from nightmares, provide comfort, and fetch medications.

  • Narcolepsy: Service dogs can recognize the signs that someone is going to fall asleep and serve as a barrier to prevent a fall or lick them to wake them up.

  • Parasomnias: Service dogs can recognize an attack and wake up their owner, bring medications, or fetch help.
  • Sleepwalking: Service dogs can guide people back to bed, prevent them from leaving the house, or keep them away from stairs.

These are only some of the sleep-related conditions that service dogs can help with. There may be even more options depending on your condition. For example, some types of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may wake someone at night but service dogs can provide comfort when necessary. 

How to Get a Service Dog for Sleep Apnea

If you’re dealing with sleep apnea, struggling to get through each day, and feeling that your safety is compromised because of a lack of quality sleep, you would do well to consider a service dog. Your service dog can provide you great comfort, alerts during the night when you’re experiencing airway obstructions, and even alert others to a potential medical emergency.

The first step in trying to get a service dog when you have sleep apnea is to visit your physician. This medical professional should be aware of your medical condition and he or she will sit down and determine if a service dog will be a benefit to you at this time.

When it’s determined that either a service dog or emotional support animal will benefit you as you deal with sleep apnea, to get your animal or have it properly certified and registered, visit the dedicated professionals at US Service Animals. If you want to learn more about obtaining a service dog or emotional support animal, contact us directly.