Obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable disorder that results in episodes of
stopped breathing due to blockages in the airway during sleep.
The sleeping disorder may adversely affect glucose control, making the
health problems associated with type 2 diabetes even worse, University of
Chicago scientists report in the American Journal of Respiratory and
Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society.
The study, involving 60 people with type 2 diabetes, demonstrates "for the
first time that there is a clear, graded inverse relationship between
[obstructive sleep apnea] severity and glucose control in patients with type 2
diabetes," says study researcher, Renee S. Aronsohn, MD, of the University of
Chicago, in a news release.
The study also shows:
Undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea is very common among people with type 2
Sleep apnea is a largely undiagnosed additional medical risk factor for
people with diabetes.
Sleep apnea is associated with poorer glucose control and could lead to
even more health complications for diabetes patients.
Researchers say doctors should ask their patients with type 2 diabetes about
sleeping problems. John Heffner, MD, past president of the American Thoracic
Society, says in the news release that at least 80% of doctors' patients with
type 2 diabetes would be found to also have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a
"Treating their breathing problem might improve their glycemic control" and
ease some of the complications of diabetes, Heffner says.
Aronsohn says the study has "important clinical implications" and that
effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea "may represent a novel and
non-pharmacologic intervention" in diabetes management.
She and her fellow researchers recruited adults with type 2 diabetes (41 to
77 years old) from outpatient clinics. The researchers gathered
information on the participants' medical history and height and weight
measurements; they monitored each person's sleep-wake patterns.
Patients also underwent an overnight sleep study to determine whether they
had sleep apnea.
Three-quarters of the participants had obstructive sleep apnea, the
researchers say. Despite such a high percentage of people with the sleep
disorder, only five had been evaluated for it, and none was undergoing
Thirty-eight percent of the participants (23 people) were classified as
having mild sleep apnea, 25% (15 people) had moderate apnea, and 13% (eight
people) had severe sleep apnea, the researchers say.
The researchers report that people with sleep apnea were heavier and older
than those without sleep apnea. Increasing severity of sleep apnea was clearly
associated with poorer glucose control, even after taking into account factors
such as obesity, which the researchers say implies potentially more
complications for diabetes patients.
The researchers say the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and
severity of diabetes seems clear.
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