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The Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

Written by Melissa Howe
 

Mounting research studies continue to yield statistics supporting the close relationship between sleep apnea and diabetes. More than 25 million adult Americans suffer from diabetes with the vast majority of them living with Type 2. Of that majority, seven out of ten also have what is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Why are OSA and Diabetes so Serious?

With OSA, the natural relaxation of the throat and tongue muscles becomes exaggerated and closes off one’s oxygen supply during sleep. This condition, known as apnea (without breath), happens hundreds of times a night. Each apneic event can last for as long as a minute each time.

The short-term consequences are daytime sleepiness and reduced mental acuity. Additionally, people with OSA are at a greater risk for serious long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Underlining the danger of repeated apneic events are the severely reduced blood oxygen levels, known as hypoxemia.

Numerous studies have shown that OSA-related hypoxemia can be closely linked with glucose intolerance, development of insulin resistance, and metabolic dysfunction. A normal sleep cycle is closely related to endocrine and metabolic functions. Consequently, these facts looked at together not only show the relationship between sleep apnea and diabetes, but also their relationship to obesity.

Illustrations of Sleeping with Obstruction (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) and Sleeping without Obstruction (Normal Sleep)

OSA and Diabetes: The Silver Lining

The good news is that the close link between the three chronic conditions has a silver lining. Mountains of research data indicate that treatment of sleep apnea in diabetics improves nighttime glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. Using what is known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy in conjunction with good nutrition and exercise has been shown to have an overwhelming positive effect on these interrelated conditions.

CPAP therapy is considered the current gold standard treatment for OSA, and involves the use of a mask and machine that gently delivers a prescribed air pressure to the OSA patient during sleep. This reduces the apneic events, leading to restorative sleep and reduced hypoxemia.

CPAP therapy has been shown to alleviate the immediate symptoms of OSA, such as daytime sleepiness and fatigue, while also lowering blood glucose levels. This is in addition to the lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and of course, diabetes. In fact, recent studies have shown that CPAP therapy can be equally effective as prescribed oral diabetes medications in this regard.

CPAP therapy provides OSA and diabetes patients with more energy they need to stick with exercise regimens that continue the cycle of improvement. It also increases patients’ ability to stay alert. Secondly, a nutritious diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables further maintains a balanced body alkaline pH to fight against autotoxication, which is at the center of most chronic diseases like diabetes. The treatment effects of both CPAP therapy and a proper diet come together to lower body mass, and decrease the inherent risks of obesity and associated health risks that each condition brings.

Author Bio: Melissa Howe
She is a freelance writer with more than two decades writing about health and health technology. As a person who has studied OSA and its related health conditions, she is a regular contributing writer for The CPAP Shop. For more information on OSA and diabetes, you can visit The CPAP Shop online.

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