Sleep apnea and diabetes are two prevalent and interconnected health conditions affecting millions worldwide. Over the years, researchers have discovered a significant association between these two conditions, unveiling a complex relationship.

Research has shown a high prevalence of sleep apnea in adults with type two diabetes.  While these statistics don’t prove that sleep apnea causes diabetes (or vice versa), the two have a clear connection. In this article, we will delve into the link between sleep apnea and diabetes, exploring how one impacts the other and highlighting the importance of understanding this relationship for comprehensive healthcare.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder when one experiences shallow breaths or breathing pauses while they sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to more than a minute and occur multiple times throughout the night. Sleep apnea symptoms include snoring, gasping for air, choking, and daytime drowsiness.

There are three forms of sleep apnea.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when one experiences a partial or complete upper airway collapse, making breathing difficult and disrupting sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when your breathing decreases or stops completely while you sleep and happens when there is a communication problem between your brain and your diaphragm, and the muscles in your rib cage that help you breathe.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS) is a combination of both CSA and OSA.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, on the other hand, is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels because of the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin. There are two primary types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a condition that develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or fails to produce enough of it.

How Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Are Connected

Numerous studies have established a strong association between sleep apnea and diabetes. Research suggests that someone with sleep apnea has a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those without the sleep disorder. Additionally, individuals with diabetes are more likely to have sleep apnea than those without the condition.

This connection can be attributed to several factors:

  • Insulin Resistance — Sleep apnea can cause insulin resistance. When someone is insulin resistant, their body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. As a result, glucose uptake is impaired, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing diabetes. And over time, elevated blood sugar levels may lead to a higher A1C, increasing one’s risk of neuropathy, eye damage, and kidney damage.
  • Hormonal Imbalance — Sleep apnea disrupts the normal balance of hormones, including insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol. These hormonal imbalances can affect appetite regulation, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism, contributing to the development of diabetes.
  • Chronic Inflammation — Both sleep apnea and diabetes are associated with chronic inflammation. Sleep apnea-induced hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and fragmented sleep patterns can trigger inflammation, which can further worsen insulin resistance and contribute to the progression of diabetes.

Shared Risk Factors

Sleep apnea and diabetes share common risk factors, including obesity, age, family history, and ethnicity. Obesity, in particular, plays a significant role in developing both conditions. However, it’s important to note that even skinny people can develop sleep apnea due to other factors such as genetics, anatomical features, or medical conditions.

Excess body weight can lead to an accumulation of fat around the neck and upper airway, increasing the likelihood of airway obstruction during sleep and consequently promoting sleep apnea. Furthermore, obesity is a major risk factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

Recognizing the link between sleep apnea and diabetes is crucial for early detection and intervention. Proper diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can help manage blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with diabetes. Similarly, effective management of diabetes, including lifestyle modifications and medications, can reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms and improve overall sleep quality.

Get the Sleep You Need to Lead a Healthy Life with DreamZz Sleep Center

Sleep apnea and diabetes share a multifaceted relationship, with each condition influencing and exacerbating the other. Understanding this intricate connection is essential for healthcare providers and individuals alike. By addressing sleep apnea and diabetes in an integrated manner, healthcare professionals can provide comprehensive care, leading to better health outcomes and an improved quality of life for those affected by these conditions.

When you trust your care to DreamZz Sleep Center, you can expect detailed information about your symptoms and available treatment options from a Sleep Medicine board-certified, fellowship-trained physician. And unlike other sleep centers, which may have waiting periods as long as four months, we can get you in for a consultation and sleep study within two weeks of your initial call resulting in treatments beginning in less than one month.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation.