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Why Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is More Common When You Have Diabetes

According to Dr. Ofer Jacobowitz of ENT and Allergy Associates in New York, at least 50 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, and some studies indicate that this number goes much higher, 60 to 80 percent.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping condition, it means that you have interrupted breathing or shallow breathing while being asleep. Your breathing may stop for a few seconds or even up to a few minutes, and that can happen countless times during the night.

If this condition isn’t treated, it can lead to many health problems, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and even dementia. It also can worsen your diabetes, if you suffer from it. The ones that are at the greatest risk of developing sleep apnea are men over 40, especially if they are overweight. Of course, anyone can develop this condition, even thin people.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches as soon as you wake up
  • Sleepiness during the entire day
  • Depression that you cannot explain
  • Trouble sleeping tight through the night, even when you take sleep medications
  • Waking up and gasping or choking for air
  • Frequent and ambiguous night sweats

If you think you might have sleep apnea, consult your doctor about having a sleep study. It is conducted in a special laboratory overnight, but you can do it at home also. If you discover that you do have sleep apnea, don’t panic, there are many ways to treat this condition. One of the commonest ways of treatment is using a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP. You just wear a CPAP at night to make sure you have a more consistent airflow. These machines used to be a little bit uncomfortable in the past, but nowadays they are more user-friendly.

Another device you can try for OSA is a dental device you wear at night that moves the jaw forward and increases the diameter of the throat. This device is widely used, but it also has a higher failure rate.

In some situations, even surgery is advised. Losing weight through eating more healthily and practicing a physical activity also can help eliminate sleep apnea.

When it comes to diabetes, if you use insulin and you are starting to use a CPAP, you should monitor your blood sugar more carefully because CPAP can actually lower the insulin requirement. This can be dangerous considering it might lead to problematic hypoglycemia, particularly during the night. And this is especially important for diabetics who are on an insulin pump.

Despite the fact that untreated sleep apnea can mess up your whole body when you have diabetes, the good news is that an appropriate treatment for sleep apnea can improve your blood sugar control and your hemoglobin A1C.  If you use an insulin pump to help treat your diabetes, treating your sleep apnea with a CPAP might result in needing to lower your insulin requirement.

However, the most important thing to remember is that it appears that sleep apnea creates the most negative effects of diabetes during REM, or dream sleep. Most dream sleep happens towards the end of the night. The findings suggest that patients who take off their masks and turn off their CPAPs two to three hours before awakening are not getting the much-needed improvement in their diabetes control, while those who keep it on it throughout the entire night do.

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