A growing number of studies are revealing the link between sleep deprivation and Type 2 Diabetes. In particular, people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at an increased risk of developing diabetes. In fact, it is estimated that 40% of people with OSA will develop diabetes at some point.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable disorder that results in episodes of stopped breathing due to blockages in the airway during sleep. It remains largely undiagnosed and is associated with several other conditions in addition to diabetes including cardiovascular disease, weight gain and fatigue.
In sleep apnea, the muscles in the upper throat relax during sleep, closing the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs – leading to dangerously low levels of oxygen blood saturation. The lack of oxygen triggers the secretion of adrenalin into the blood stream which reduces the ability of insulin to absorb glucose. This may result in the patient becoming insulin resistant and glucose intolerant.
The link between diabetes and OSA becomes more complicated by obesity, which is the greatest risk factor for sleep apnea and is also a risk factor for diabetes. With two-thirds of patients with sleep apnea being overweight or obese – the three factors become interconnected and create a vicious cycle of exhaustion and weight gain.
There are effective treatments available to manage OSA which may eliminate or nearly eliminate the disorder and its associated symptoms. Proper management of obstructive sleep apnea may help to manage diabetes, and reduces the risk of developing diabetes in the first place.