Diabetes And Sleep Apnea

Yes, it is true that people who have diabetes have troubles in sleeping- either they sleep to much or can’t get enough sleep.


“ Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder where breathing stops for 5 seconds or more during sleep, as often as 300 times a night. Research suggests that diabetes can be caused by and can cause sleep apnea."

There are 2 major types of sleep apnea-

Obstructive sleep apnea is when there is breathlessness due to a blockage of the airway, most often when the soft tissue at the back of the throat sags during sleep.

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the necessary messages to the muscles to initiate breathing. Once the oxygen levels go low enough, the sleeping person wakes up abruptly and starts breathing again.

It is a major factor in altering sleep cycle and the stages of sleep. Studies have also pointed towards a link between altered sleep stages with decrease in growth hormone, which is an important factor in body fat, muscle and abdominal fat.

‘Research has found a link between sleep apnea and the development of diabetes as well as insulin resistance.’

‘It’s marked not just by snoring loudly, but by pauses in breaths.’


This is due to the high glucose levels at night which cause kidneys to excrete excess sugar.

Diabetics struggle to maintain balances in the hormone melatonin, which not only regulates the sleep cycle but releases insulin from pancreas to regulate blood sugar.

They may lead to insulin resistance making glucose-insulin ratios difficult to control.

Diabetics also face leptin resistance which destabilize breathing patterns and depresses respiratory functions.


Sleep apnea and diabetes coexist due to shared risk factors like obesity.

Untreated sleep apnea is associated with increase in sugar and poor quality of life owing to chronic fatigue.

Sleep apnea can worsen diabetes symptoms and lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or even strokes.

It connects to type 2 diabetes due to the weight factor. People with type 2 diabetes may be obese, insulin resistant, and have large amounts of visceral fat . Extra weight causes tissues in the neck to fall into the airway.

It can also increase blood sugar level owing to the stress caused due to sleep deprivation and abrupt awakenings in the night.


Snore very loudly, which is followed by gasping or choking?

Face chronic fatigue?

Have problems concentrating?

Have mood swings?

Face difficulty controlling blood pressure and sugar levels?

If the answers to the abovementioned questions have been yes, it’s time to consult your diabetes coach/doctor.

They will ask you for your medical history

They will do a physical exam and may also ask family members about snoring and choking

They might do a sleep study called ‘Polysomnogrphy’ that determines how long and how well you sleep

They might use an outpatient device called oximeter (home evaluation).


Lifestyle changes- If the sleep apnea is mild, lifestyle changes would do the trick. You have to exercise more in order to lose weight (to help keep throat open by reducing pressure on neck), give up alcohol and drugs (they relax tongue and might cause it to fall back and obstruct passage), and quit smoking.

Dental devices- Dentists specialised with sleep apnea may design custom dental devices that help keep the airway open.

CPAP- Continuous positive airway pressure machine. It’s a mask like device over the nose with the machine blowing air into the throat to keep the airway open. Air pressure is adjusted to keep the throat from closing up or becoming blocked.

Surgery- Some procedures can reset the lower jaw or widen breath passages by stiffening, shrinking, or removing excess tissue in throat or mouth. These techniques enlarge the airway, making it less likely to collapse and obstruct passages while sleeping.

Once sleep apnea is treated, there will be noticeable changes and improvements in the blood sugar levels as well as the sleep quality.

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