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Sleep apnoea is more than just a snoring problem – and it can have much deeper consequences than tiredness. Did you know that diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnoea have been strongly linked? Studies have shown that as many as 71% of Type 2 diabetes patients have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)!

Although we currently don’t know exactly how sleep apnoea affects diabetes, researchers have found many connections between the effects of sleep apnoea and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance drives Type 2 diabetes, so these connections further solidify this link between OSA and diabetes. One effect of OSA is hypoxemia, low oxygen in the blood, a result of interrupted breathing during sleep. Hypoxemia can trigger insulin resistance in a range of ways, including increasing inflammation, oxidative stress, and directly impacting insulin-producing cells.

OSA also causes sleep fragmentation. Studies have shown that sleep fragmentation can increase the stress hormone cortisol, which increases insulin resistance and high blood sugar.

However, it’s not all bad news – studies have also shown that CPAP treatment can help reduce these effects. For patients with prediabetes, CPAP treatment has been shown to help glucose metabolism, and improve insulin sensitivity. Some studies have also shown improvements in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance amongst Type 2 diabetes and OSA patients when using CPAP therapy. This benefit is most pronounced in those suffering from moderate to severe OSA, obesity or poorly controlled diabetes.

This strong evidence linking the two conditions has lead groups such as the International Diabetes Federation Taskforce to strongly recommend health professionals to consider Type 2 diabetes patients for OSA, and vice versa. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has actually advised anyone with Type 2 Diabetes to get tested for OSA. If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, there is a high chance you may also suffer from OSA. Untreated, OSA not only impacts insulin resistance, but also increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, depression, anxiety, motor vehicle accidents and obesity.

If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes, snore, have morning headaches, or feel tired even after 8 hours sleep, speak to a family doctor or Sleep Specialist about getting tested for sleep apnoea. Booking a sleep study can help start you on a journey to better health.