The Misunderstood Link Between Diabetes and Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping Woman

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, are breathing disorders that affect people during sleep and surprisingly can be an early warning sign that diabetes development is underway. Multiple medical studies have clearly linked sleep apnea with greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes with many experts indicating side effects directly related to sleep apnea have the ability to negatively influence an individuals metabolism.

Despite this obvious correlation of Diabetes and Sleep issues now being well proven, with interruptions to deep sleep a key part of diabetes risk. Many patients who suffer from sleep apnea or diabetes continue to struggle without seeking help, with a recent report indicating a staggering 80% remain undiagnosed.

The Connection Between Lack of Sleep and Diabetes

Evidence suggests that sleep deprivation has the ability to lead to a pre-diabetic state, with the body’s reaction to sleep loss resembling insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Insulin’s job is to help the body use glucose for energy, but insulin resistance occurs when the cells fail to use the hormone efficiently which results in high blood sugar.

Diabetes occurs when the body no longer can produce enough insulin or the cells do not properly responds to insulin produced. When this occurs high blood sugar levels build in the body to the point where they can have a significant impact on the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

Recent research further demonstrates the likelihood of a relationship existing be-tween diabetes and sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep disordered breathing. With the International Diabetes Federation consensus statement

“to raise awareness of the association between the two conditions, which have significant implications on public health and on the lives of the individuals.”

Revealing their eagerness to promote the issue to the general public by providing as much education and information so people can make more informed health decisions.

Interesting Facts About the Link Between Diabetes and Sleep Problems

  • Sleep Apnea is known to affect roughly 24% of adult men and 9% of women in Australia, although a shocking 80% remain undiagnosed.
  • Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of people that suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) will have diabetes – The incidence of new diabetes in people with OSA however is not completely understood
  • The prevalence of OSA in those who have diabetes may be up to 23%, and the chance of some form of sleep disorder may be as high as 58%
  • Sleep Apnea may have effects on glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea and other sleep disorders have a strong association with a range of cardiovascular complications including hypertension, stroke and heart failure
  • Similar to diabetes, Sleep Apnea prevalence and severity is directly correlated with adiposity; left untreated sleep apnea is also associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity
  • There is a strong link between OSA and obesity, with it affecting between 33%-77% of obese males and between 11%-46% of obese females
  • It is estimated 8% of the Australian population (approximately 1.6million) have diabetes, with the most conservative figures of OSA prevalence, this suggests over 900,000 diabetic Australians suffer from co-morbid OSA, which often remains undiagnosed
  • An association between severity of Sleep Apnea is associated with poorer glucose control
  • Sleep Apnea patients (particularly those with severe OSA) are more likely to have insulin resistance than those without
  • Most studies indicate the successful treatment of OSA improves insulin sensitivity and/ or fasting or post-prandial glucose levels
  • Even mild cases of Sleep Apnea appear to predispose patients to adverse metabolic outcomes
  • Available evidence from cross-sectional studies strongly supports an independent association between Sleep Apnea, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance – with many believing adiposity is the causative link

Why Anyone Suffering Diabetes or Sleep Problems Should Seek Help

In addition to having the ability to improve diabetes, successful correction of Sleep Apnea, has been shown to significantly improve diabetic complications and cardiovascular health. For this reason The International Diabetes Federation has come out recommending that all patients with diabetes should be considered for sleep apnea, and vice versa.

About the Author

Dr Louis Chan

Dr Louis Chan has a special interest in holistic dentistry and is a certified provider of Myobrace, Insignia, Rapid Smiles and Invisalign.

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