Friday, April 08, 2016

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Diabetes?

Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder that occurs when an obstruction prevents air from entering the lungs. It happens during sleep when the airway closes and people stop breathing completely. Often breathing resumes abruptly with a loud snort or choking sound. This can simply happen many times a night, sometimes it could occur up to 30 times per hour.

The disorder has been linked to daytime sleepiness and increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and even death. According to a recent study, seniors with such disorder often have high blood sugar and might be almost twice as likely as sound sleepers to develop Type-2 diabetes. The findings were published online September 17, 2015 in the journal ‘Diabetes Care’.

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and other institutions analyzed data from 5,888 American adults aged 65 and above from across the United States between 1989 and 1993. Participants’ level of insulin was measured early in the study, and their fasting blood sugar levels were measured again in 1992–1993, 1994–1995, 1996–1997, and 1998–1999. Researchers also took note of who developed Type-2 diabetes during the course of the study.

Every 6 months through 1999, the participants were asked whether anyone had observed them having episodes of sleep apnea, whether a spouse or roommate had complained about their loud snoring and if they were usually sleepy in the daytime. The researchers also asked about insomnia symptoms like difficulty in falling asleep, frequent awakening at night or waking up too early and being unable to go back to sleep.

Older adults who reported snoring, sleep apnea or daytime sleepiness tended to have higher fasting blood sugar levels than normal sleepers. They also had insulin resistance, which means higher than normal amounts of insulin are produced but the bodies were less able to use it to control the blood sugar levels.

People with sleep apnea were nearly twice as likely as normal sleepers to develop diabetes, and snorers were 27 percent more likely. Those with daytime sleepiness were also about 50 percent more likely than those without that symptom to develop diabetes. The more disturbed-breathing symptoms people had during sleep, the greater their diabetes risk. But insomnia symptoms were not consistently linked to the risk of diabetes.

However, improving sleep quality may reduce the risk of developing diabetes in older adults or the severity of diabetes in those who are already affected. Getting good sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise to remain healthy during aging process. Monitoring blood sugar levels in older adults with sleep disorders may help identify those who are potentially at risk to allow earlier treatment.

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