As scientists learn more about the factors that affect our health, they have also learned that many conditions are often found together and can even exacerbate one another. Medical research, for instance, has revealed a Sleep Apnea and diabetes connection that can severely impact your health.
Having one often indicates a higher likelihood of having the other. And, each condition can make the other worse in a number of ways. If you have type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea, it is important for your doctor to explore your risk factors for the other malady to better protect your long-term health.
Does Sleep Apnea affect diabetes?
There are a number of links between Sleep Apnea and type 2 diabetes. Some of these show one condition affecting or worsening the other. Others point to common risk factors for both or to complications that can be made worse when someone suffers from both diabetes and Sleep Apnea.
First, the two conditions have a risk factor in common: obesity. Excess weight affects how the body processes sugar, making obesity among the top risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Excess weight is also considered a significant risk factor for the development of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Obesity, in fact, is considered to be one of the top Sleep Apnea causes. This is because fat deposits that are located around airways can inhibit smooth and easy breathing.
There is also evidence that Sleep Apnea is linked to diabetes development. When people have disturbed sleep, it inhibits their body’s ability to process sugar. The chronic fatigue caused by poor sleep quality has been linked in studies with increases in blood glucose.
Researchers believe that stress associated with poor sleep causes hormonal changes that spur the body to release stored glucose. The link between blood sugar and Sleep Apnea can mean that people who have a risk for type 2 diabetes can see that risk increased by sleep problems.
Problems associated with Sleep Apnea and type 2 diabetes are further exacerbated by the risk of complications each of these conditions can cause. People who have type 2 diabetes or Sleep Apnea are at higher risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes
According to researchers, the links between disorders that affect sleep and diabetes are high enough that anyone who has either should be tested. For instance, people who have type 2 diabetes also have a 50/50 chance of developing Sleep Apnea.
The risk is even higher for older men: as many as two out of three men over 65 who have type 2 diabetes also have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, many people do not get the help from their doctors that they need.
Many people who have Sleep Apnea do not have a diagnosis from their doctors, however. They may notice a link between poor sleep and blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. Or, they might think that a diabetic sleeping all the time is just the result of fatigue associated with their current condition. Without proper testing, they cannot get the treatment that they need to improve their sleep and their general health.
Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep Apnea is not just snoring. It involves periods of time, sometimes a minute or more when a sufferer does not breathe properly. These periods of time can rob the brain of oxygen and can cause poor quality sleep when apnea wakes you. If you have type 2 diabetes and suffer from any of the following, talk to your doctor about a sleep study:
- frequent or loud snoring.
- sleepiness during the day.
- sore throat.
- dry mouth.
- weight gain.
- mood swings.
Treating Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
While the news about the links between Sleep Apnea and diabetes is sobering, it’s also cause for hope. In many cases, addressing each health issue can significantly improve the other.
Losing weight is considered an effective treatment for both Sleep Apnea and type 2 diabetes. Many people with either or both conditions find that they feel better if they are able to find an effective medical weight loss program.
While seeking better health through lifestyle changes, therapies that directly address Sleep Apnea can help. For instance, many people are able to get better sleep and stop Sleep Apnea symptoms by using a CPAP or related device when they go to bed each night.
Modern CPAP machines are far more effective and comfortable than earlier models. There are a wider array of masks available so that people can try different ones until they find one that they can wear comfortably. Additionally, modern CPAP devices offer features like variable pressure in order to allow comfortable sleep.
Many people who get a firm Sleep Apnea diagnosis and begin using a CPAP device begin feeling relief right away. For instance, they will find that they no longer experience the poor mood and brain fog that are associated with a poor night’s sleep. This reduction in stress can allow the body to process sugar more effectively, reducing type 2 diabetes symptoms, as well.
If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or Sleep Apnea, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your risks. Simple tests are available that can demonstrate whether you are suffering from one or both conditions. By gaining the right information, you can form a plan to improve your sleep, improve your metabolism and feel better.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.