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Search Health Information    Treating Sleep Apnea May Improve Blood Sugar
 Diabetes Center Feature Story

Treating Sleep Apnea May Improve Blood Sugar
Experts urge that all diabetics be screened for the nighttime breathing disorder

Treating Sleep Apnea May Improve Blood Sugar(HealthDay News) -- People with type 2 diabetes just might want to have their sleep analyzed.

Experts now believe there's a connection between blood sugar levels and the sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. That's the most common type of so-called sleep-disordered breathing, in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted for a brief period of time during sleep, according to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research.

Treating sleep apnea, the experts say, could help avoid a range of complications and keep blood glucose levels in check.

"Successful treatment of sleep apnea has a greater impact to improve blood sugar than any single thing you can do in a diabetic," Dr. Daniel Einhorn, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and a medical director at the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told HealthDay.

With obstructive sleep apnea, a blockage somewhere in the airway causes a person stop breathing for a period of seconds or even a minute at a time, says the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Studies show that as many as 40 percent of people with sleep apnea also have diabetes, according to an International Diabetes Federation task force.

Based on preliminary research showing a close relationship between type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea, the task force has urged clinicians to screen people with diabetes for sleep apnea -- and people with sleep apnea for diabetes.

That recommendation was made in 2008 and, since then, newer evidence has supported the call for greater awareness of the diabetes-sleep apnea connection.

In one study, researchers at the University of Chicago recruited 60 people with type 2 diabetes from outpatient clinics between February 2007 and August 2009. The participants underwent sleep studies and had their blood drawn for hemoglobin A1c tests, which measure average blood-sugar levels over a two- to three-month period.

The study found that 77 percent of those with diabetes had obstructive sleep apnea. Overall, increasing severity of apnea was associated with poorer glucose control, even after taking into account the participants' age, sex, race, body mass index, number of diabetes medications, level of exercise, years of diabetes and total sleep time.

The results were reported online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The International Diabetes Federation task force said that people with type 2 diabetes should get screened for sleep apnea particularly if they exhibit classic symptoms, such as heavy snoring, daytime sleepiness or "witnessed" apneas -- meaning someone else has seen the person stop breathing during the night.

According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and inability to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable or depressed or experiencing mood swings or personality changes
  • Nighttime urination
  • A dry throat when you wake up

On the Web

To learn more about obstructive sleep apnea, visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Daniel Einhorn, M.D., clinical professor, medicine, University of California, San Diego, and medical director, Scripps Whittier Institute for Diabetes, La Jolla, Calif.; International Diabetes Federation Task Force on Epidemiology and Prevention, Consensus Statement on Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes, June 2008; Dec. 17, 2009, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, online; American Sleep Apnea Association (; National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (
Author: Karen Pallarito
Publication Date: Jan. 31, 2010
Copyright © 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.


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