I have been doing some reading up on the latest news regarding obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and some new research that shows there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a result of sleep apnea. Diabetes occurs when the body can’t make or produce enough of the hormone called insulin. Insulin, by definition, is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).
As we know, sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked when a person sleeps. This results in the person’s breathing stopping and starting throughout the night. Researchers have determined that about 13 percent of men and 6 percent of women have moderate to severe sleep apnea that has been undiagnosed and/or untreated.
Over the past twenty years there has been evidence to suggest that sleep apnea may be associated with insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and type 2 diabetes. Part of the problem in trying to link sleep apnea to diabetes was that previous studies were limited to a small number of people who participated in the study so the results were inconclusive.
However, in another study that went on for many years, data was collected from over 1,400 participants. The average age of these people was 63 and all of them underwent an in-home sleep study and none of them had diabetes when this study began. After approximately 13 years, 285 of the participants developed type 2 diabetes and it was found that people in the study who had severe obstructive sleep apnea were about 70 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who didn’t have sleep apnea. This increased risk remained even when the organizers of the study only included people who were obese.
The World Health Organization has said that about one in 10 adults have diabetes, with most of those having type 2 diabetes and now it seems that obesity increases the risk of both sleep apnea and diabetes.
This study and past studies are suggesting that there is a direct link between obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes, but it has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. This information underscores the need to prevent sleep apnea from occurring and to also screen for sleep apnea in patients who are at risk for developing diabetes as a result of being overweight and physically inactive. Healthy weight management and being active would simultaneously reduce the risk (of) developing sleep apnea and diabetes.
It has been recommended that people who have diabetes should also be screened for sleep apnea, and conversely, people with sleep apnea should be screened for diabetes.
It would seem that diabetes is another potential risk for someone who has sleep apnea, so it is imperative that if you feel you have a sleeping disorder, please go and get it checked out and if necessary, arrange for a sleep study to confirm if you have sleep apnea, so that you could begin your sleep apnea treatment sooner.