The Relationship Between Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Type 2 Diabetes is a serious illness that is increasing in prevalence among overweight and obese patients across the country. The inability to process glucose in the body and convert it to energy can lead to a number of debilitating effects that can potentially be life-threatening.

As more patients are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, scientists and medical professionals continue to look for potential markers that could help patients reduce their risk of getting diabetes. In recent years, some studies have pointed to the connection between obstructive sleep apnea and an increased risk of diabetes.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a potentially serious sleep disorder that is common in overweight or obese patients. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, you repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep. The most common indications of obstructive sleep apnea are loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, and waking abruptly at night while gasping or choking. Other symptoms include morning headaches, increased irritability and changes to mood during the day, and dry or sore throat when you wake up.

Obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused by the relaxing of the throat muscles during sleep that then makes the airway too narrow to allow you to breathe in and out properly. This effect is often exacerbated by excessive weight, as it put more pressure on the airways when you are sleeping on your back. The lack of oxygen in your body causes your brain to rouse you from your sleep so that you can take in an adequate breath. The long-term effects of this sleep disorder can be devastating if not treated properly.

How Does OSA Affect Type 2 Diabetes?

OSA is often a factor in a number of illnesses, including high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. However, recent studies have suggested that OSA may be a factor in the development of type 2 diabetes in overweight patients. Why is this?

1. OSA Can Affect Insulin and Blood Glucose Levels

Recent studies have shown that the production of insulin happens on a schedule within the body. Scientists believe that the body’s circadian clock regulates this cycle of production. If there is a disruption to the circadian rhythm due to obstructive sleep apnea, then the body may become resistant to insulin, as the frequent changes of the cycle reduce the effectiveness of the insulin released into the body.

2. Sleep Deprivation Can Decrease Glucose Tolerance

Chronic sleep lost due to obstructive sleep apnea has been shown in studies to reduce the body’s ability to adequately process glucose and convert it into usable energy. The longer you go without adequate sleep, the worse your body becomes at being able to effectively regulate glucose levels through the day and night. Coupled with the increased insulin resistance, decreased glucose tolerance can increase diabetes risk.

3. Lack of Sleep Contributes to Weight Gain

A major predictor of the development of type 2 diabetes is obesity. A vast majority of patients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have been significantly overweight or obese. Sleep (and lack of sleep) has an enormous influence on appetite and exercise routines.

  • Lack of sleep makes you crave high-sugar, high-fat foods. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain begins to crave these types of foods and increases your ability to act impulsively – meaning that you are likely to overeat these unhealthy foods and over time, this can lead to the development of diabetes.
  • Night-time eating is more common. When you consume the majority of your calories later in the day, you disrupt your circadian rhythm due to late-night digestion, which also leads to weight gain and problems with blood sugar.
  • Decreased energy leads to a drop in regular exercise. When you’re consistently tired due to disruptions in sleep, the lack of energy usually leads to a less regular exercise routine. The lack of regular activity leads to weight gain, which can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

When you have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, the lack of sleep can increase your risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Solutions for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The good news is that obstructive sleep apnea is a preventable, treatable sleep disorder. Working on a regular, healthy diet and exercise routine goes a long way to reducing weight gain and bringing a better night’s sleep to your house. When you work to improve your health during your waking life, you’ll find that you’ll sleep better, and some of the symptoms of sleep apnea are reduced.

If the sleep apnea persists, there are a few methods for treating your OSA: CPAP machines, and intraoral appliances. A CPAP machine is a device that gives you a steady stream of oxygen throughout the night, ensuring that your airways stay open while you sleep.

If you find a CPAP to be too intrusive or uncomfortable, the other option is an intraoral device, which is essentially a mouth guard that is custom-made by a dentist to fit your mouth and allows you to sleep with your airway open for the entire night. This CPAP alternative is less intrusive, uses no energy to operate (like a CPAP), and fits in the palm of your hand.

A Better Night’s Sleep Can Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea due to increased weight, there are solutions that can help you get a better night’s sleep and reduce your risk of other debilitating illnesses, like type 2 diabetes. By reducing your weight through diet and exercise, working with a sleep professional and looking into CPAP alternatives like an intraoral appliance, you can treat your sleep apnea and get the good rest that will keep you healthier and feeling better for longer.

Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia makes it easy for you to get a CPAP alternative. They use Somnomed’s FDA-approved intraoral treatment devices as that effective alternative and make the process easy by providing in-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and secure telemedicine portals for communication. You can call us at (703) 689-2480.

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