Research shows that seven in 10 people with Type 2 diabetes also have obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous, potentially life-threatening condition that also increases your risk for obesity and heart disease. November is National Diabetes Month, and the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project is advising everyone with Type 2 diabetes to be aware of their high risk for sleep apnea and talk to a doctor about any warning signs of this chronic disease.
A common misconception is that sleep apnea, a condition characterized by complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep, only affects older, overweight men. This widely-held assumption is wrong: Anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of gender, age or body type -- even if you're not overweight.
The most common warning sign for sleep apnea is snoring, especially when it is combined with choking, gasping or silent breathing pauses during sleep. Other warning signs include daytime fatigue or sleepiness, high blood pressure and a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. You should discuss these warning signs with your doctor, who may refer you to a board-certified sleep medicine physician for a complete sleep evaluation.
The sleep specialist may decide you need an objective sleep study, which will provide the data needed to make an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the most commonly recommended treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which provides gently pressurized air through a mask, keeping your airway open and making it easier to breathe. For patients who are unable to tolerate CPAP, or who seek alternatives, knowledgeable sleep specialists can offer other treatments.
Long-term sleep apnea treatment can help diabetics manage their symptoms, including improving nighttime glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. A University of Chicago study showed that treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy may even have as much of an effect in some patients as prescribed oral diabetes medications.