Caring Currents

The Connection Between Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Last updated: Jun 19, 2008

snoring

Does your parent with type 2 diabetes snore so loudly he could wake the dead? Then have him checked pronto for the sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

That's the take-home message from the recent American Diabetes Association annual scientific meeting. In fact, there's such a strong link between the two chronic conditions that the International Diabetes Federation is urging people with one ailment to get checked for the other at their doctor's office.

Here's why: 40 percent of folks with sleep apnea also have diabetes, while 23 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also have OSA, where a person's breathing becomes irregular or stops momentarily during sleep. Research suggests that treating the sleep disorder can also work to lower blood sugar. That's a win-win for two disorders that can be managed but that can wreak major heart-related havoc if left unchecked.

Treatment for OSA includes:

  • shedding some pounds in overweight people
  • cutting alcohol intake
  • using a mask to provide what's known as continuous positive airway pressure (or CPAP), which provides a steady stream of air through the nose during sleep, allowing nasal passages to open and prevent airway collapse.

Aside from loud snoring, other sleep apnea symptoms include the following (if your parent experiences any of these signs, a doctor's visit is a good idea):

  • daytime sleepiness
  • restless sleep
  • irregular breathing during sleep
  • nighttime gasping for breath
  • frequent nighttime urination
  • waking feeling unrefreshed or with a headache
  • high blood pressure.

More than just a good night's sleep may be at stake.

Image by Flickr user Ned Ragget used under the Creative Commons attribution license.