sleep apnea and diabetes

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Type 2: What You Need to Know

In today’s rapid culture, sleep deprivation has become a growing problem. But sleep is essential to overall health, especially for those with diabetes. If you live with diabetes and experience sleep problems, you are not alone. People with diabetes are more likely to have sleep problems than those who don’t have diabetes.

Sleep deprivation

Sleeping less can lead to impaired use of insulin, junk food cravings, higher levels in inflammation, and increased cortisol (stress hormone). Lack of sleep can even lead to memory problems, weight gain, and danger when operating a vehicle.

During deep sleep, the body is able to recover from the day, reinforce new learning, lower stress hormones, and release growth hormones. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, there are several sleep problems associated with diabetes, including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, high and low blood glucose, heartburn, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and stress. 


Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when people experience breathing pauses during sleep. You may have this disorder and not even know it. In fact, most people only realize they have it when their partner reports them not breathing during their sleep. 

Those with type 2 have a 50/50 chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Loud snoring, gasping, choking, waking up due to pauses in breathing, chronic fatigue, and difficulty controlling blood pressure and blood sugar are sleep apnea symptoms. The drop in oxygen levels due to inconsistent breathing patterns can cause stress on the heart and other parts of the body. You may need to undergo a sleep study or complete a home sleep evaluation to see if you have OSA.

Sleep apnea treatment

Sleeping on your side and wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine at night, as well as losing weight and not drinking alcohol before bed, can help to improve sleep and blood pressure. There is also an oral appliance you can use to help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. The good news is that treating OSA can greatly improve diabetes symptoms and help you lose weight as well.


Recent obstructive sleep apnea findings

According to a recent study published in Diabetes Care, the association between sleep apnea and type 2 is bidirectional. As many articles have stated, sleep apnea and type 2 create a “vicious circle,” one leading to the other. People with type 2 should be tested for obstructive sleep apnea, especially if they:

  • Are male
  • Have a high BMI
  • Have diabetes-related foot disease
  • Have cardiovascular disease
  • Have hypertension
  • Have depression
  • Are on insulin

Other side effects of sleep apnea

Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea are also closely related to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome occurs when a group of several conditions combine to make one more at risk for blood clots and diabetes. Sleep apnea is also linked to depression and anxiety. 

Sleep problems are very common among diabetics. Being aware of these problems is the first step to treating them. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, wake and go to sleep at the same time each day, exercise every day, and limit caffeine, alcohol and screen time before bed. In addition, make sure to get treatment for any medical issues that could be involved in your sleep disruptions.