I am 37 and just a year ago I found out I have diabetes. Now my wife thinks that I have sleep apnea because I've been snoring more heavily at night and I wake her up throughout the night because I stop breathing. Did my diabetes cause the sleep apnea? How is sleep apnea going to affect my diabetes?
Doctors Answers (5)
Sleep apnea can affect diabetes control in many ways. Struggling for air may put your body into fight-or-flight mode, releasing stress hormones that can raise blood glucose levels. If you're tired, you won't want to take that walk around the block after lunch. While you're at work, you might keep snacking to stay awake. Researchers found that treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) not only helped people sleep better, but it also improved their blood sugar (glucose) levels, which can reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, such as heart and kidney disease. Previous studies have shown that diabetes and sleep apnea are closely related, and sleep apnea sufferers are nine times more likely to have diabetes that those without the sleep disorder.
Sleep apnea affects diabetes by its effect on producing insulin resistance. This means that insulin cannot get into the blood cells to keep our blood sugar regulated. This effect is triggered by the arousals of the brain which are necessary to stop the obstruction of airflow to the lungs (the tongue and palate cannot move forward without the brain first arousing). This is not an awakening but an arousal of the brain which lasts for several seconds. This is associated with a burst of adrenalin, burst of cortisol, elevation of blood pressure, increase in heart rate and an elevation of blood sugar. Treating sleep apnea usually stabilizing the blood sugar, improving the diabetes. The diabetes did not cause your sleep apnea.
Diabetes does not cause sleep apnea but sleep apnea can make diabetes difficult to manage.
The relationship between diabetes and sleep apnea is complex and so is the answer to your excellent question. In brief, diabetes impairs glucose (sugar) control and body metabolism and frequently results in weight gain which contributes to worsening sleep apnea. There are some other factors as well. Additionally it is known that once sleep apnea is treated, diabetes control improves as well. So there are a lot of reasons to appropriately treat sleep apnea (even if it is mild and even if sugars in your blood are stable and good). Your sleep doctor should be able to give you more detailed answer and test/treat you. Talk to one of us.
People who have sleep apnea tend to have a high incidence of diabetes. Simply, when you have poor, irregular sleep, you also have poor glucose control and the acquired, Type 2 diabetes can show up. Being overweight also has an effect along with nutrition. There's isn't always a 100% so it's best to consult with a physician.