Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Association Between Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Nov 20, 2019 9:20:00 AM

November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes. In partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) link, this year's focus is on the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

As people age, they are more prone to developing conditions as their organs and senses mature. Diabetes and sleep apnea are two disturbing conditions that everyone needs to be aware of, especially since the two, along with heart disease, are are linked.

Research reveals that approximately 48% of individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have displayed symptoms of sleep apnea, while 86% of obese people with type 2 diabetes are diagnosed with sleep apnea.

diabetesThough there are no concrete pieces of evidence apart from the results of the said statistics, there is still a high possibility that having type 2 diabetes can acquire you sleep apnea.

To get a clearer definition of both conditions, let's break down each one.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is one of the most disturbing sleeping disorders in which the normal breathing rhythm is disrupted. Patients suffering from sleep apnea snore loudly at night but still feel exhausted despite a full night's sleep.

There are 3 common types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea - this is the most common form of sleep apnea that happens when the throat muscles relax
  1. Central sleep apnea - this happens when the brain isn't able to send signals to the muscles that control one's breathing.
  1. Complex sleep apnea syndrome - this form of apnea is also referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. This type takes place when the patient has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The signs and symptoms the common types of sleep apnea may extend along each other and this sometimes makes it difficult for health physicians to diagnose which type the patient has. But the common signs and symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Abnormal breathing during sleep - this is to be observed by another person
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Having trouble paying attention when awake

Now that we've delved into the basics of what sleep apnea is, let's define the potential dangers one may encounter when diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.diabetes2


Type 2 Diabetes, is a chronic disease that messes up the way your system absorbs sugar or glucose, where your body depends on fuel. If a patient has type 2 diabetes, their bodies either resist the effects of insulin or it doesn't produce adequate insulin to maintain a balanced level of glucose in the body. Insulin is a hormone that controls the movement of glucose into the cells in the body.

Type 2 Diabetes is most common in the aging group. Unfortunately, there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but the condition can still be managed by getting into healthier habits, maintaining a balanced weight, and exercising. While those are common solutions, medications and insulin therapy are the most accurate treatments.

Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes signs and symptoms are developed slowly. It is possible to acquire type 2 diabetes without you knowing that you already have it. But here are the signs and symptoms you need to pay attention to:

Dehydration and Periodic Urination - with excessive glucose piling up in your bloodstream, body fluids are pulled out from muscles and tissues and this causes you to thirst for liquid. As you consume more liquid into your body, you may experience a need to urinate more than usual.

Cravings and increased appetite - if there is not enough insulin in your body to transport glucose into the cells, the whole body is deprived of energy and lack of energy increases hunger.

Unhealthy loss of weight - even if you eat a lot to satiate hunger, it is also possible for you to lose weight when you have type 2 diabetes. When sugar isn't metabolized, the body uses other forms of fuels from the muscles and fat. Calories taken in may still be lost when glucose is released when urinating.

Unusual tiredness or fatigue - without enough glucose in the body, energy levels may also decrease.

Irritability - low energy may also lead to irritability.

Blurred vision - if the blood glucose isn't normal, it may also cause your eyes to dry up and will affect the eye's normal ability to focus.

Slow-healing of wounds and sores - diabetes weakens your body's defenses against infections and ability to heal faster

Complications a person gets from Type 2 Diabetes

Heart and blood vessel disease

Hearing impairment

Skin conditions

Alzheimer's disease

Nerve damage

Kidney damage

Eye damage

Foot damage

Decreased independence and mobility

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

The study of this correlation is still ongoing despite the release of well-researched articles and studies. Still, scientists and researchers can't define the real connection between diabetes and sleep apnea. There was once a study published back in 2005 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that tried to examine whether there is an independent relationship between sleep apnea and diabetes. Up to this point, cases of patients have both conditions just surface. But it still hasn't been proven whether one disease affects the other. The connection still remains undiscovered.diabetes1

Prevention of Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Due to the overlapping symptoms of both conditions, it's more likely that a person may have both. Again, eating a healthy diet, exercising, having enough sleep, and keeping a balanced weight is the way to avoid these conditions.

How to Care for People with Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Due to the complications caused by the conditions, people affected may lack freedom. Poor eyesight and decreased mobility may cause them to be less independent. To help care for them, they need proper nutrition and equipment to aid their independence.

Medical Aids for Sleep

There is durable medical equipment for sleep available that you can purchase online such as anti-snoring devices and CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) sleep pillows, and respiratory care equipment to help with sleep.

Medical Aids for Diabetes

Mobility will be a huge difference when a person is affected with Type 2 Diabetes. Walking sticks, scooters, and bathroom aids are the most common durable medical equipment needed to increase a person with diabetes freedom.

With all these being said, prevention is still the best cure. Shift bad habits to avoid diabetes and its associated diseases such as sleep apnea. If you think you may have one or more the symptoms mentioned above, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic for your free sleep assessment.

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Topics: sleep apnea, diabetes

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