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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes

Man snoring while sleep next to woman

Have you been waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air? Have you, your partner or spouse noticed you’ve been snoring more than usual? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
There’s a significant connection between OSA and type 2 diabetes (T2D) ––– people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have OSA. It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms, as OSA can lead to other major health risks along with making it harder to manage your type 2.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

OSA is more than just snoring loud enough to wake up the neighbors. It’s actually a condition that causes abnormal breathing during sleep, leading to extended pausing in breathing. Essentially, people with OSA periodically stop breathing while they are sleeping.
This happens when the airway in the back of the throat is blocked by the throat muscles intermittently relaxing.
These periods without breathing can cause severe sleep disturbances, sleep deprivation and affect your body’s oxygen supply. Lack of sleep caused by OSA puts a lot of stress on the body, increasing glucose levels and at its worst, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality.

How is OSA connected to type 2 diabetes?

OSA and type 2 diabetes are like friends, but not the best kind. There are several other associations between OSA and T2D including:
· Both OSA and type 2 are linked to the development of insulin resistance.
· It’s estimated that 86% of obese type 2 diabetics have OSA, while 50% of non-obese type 2 diabetics have OSA.
· Studies show OSA is linked to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.
· Breaks in sleep pattern for longer than two nights have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and impair glucose metabolism.
· Increased risk for developing high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
It’s also important to note that OSA can lead to severe insulin resistance, resulting in hyperinsulinemia, when your glucose levels are higher than normal. This inevitably leads to needing higher doses of insulin.

Signs you may have OSA

Loud, chronic snoring that includes gasping for air, snorting or choking are markedly some of the most common signs of OSA. Snoring episodes could lead to you waking up briefly while sleeping ––– including noticeable pauses in breathing.
Waking up with dry mouth, a sore throat and excessive sleepiness during the day that causes you to fall asleep during daytime activities are other signs to monitor.

Ways to treat OSA

OSA is a serious condition. If it’s left untreated for too long it can become progressively worse. It’s important to reach out to your primary care physician as soon as you start noticing symptoms. The good news is there are ways to treat OSA and even reverse it completely (woo hoo!).
Frist step is to talk to your local treating provider about getting tested for OSA.
Your provider will probably recommend one of the following treatment options:
· CPAP or BiPAP machine ––– portable devices used to help regulate breathing by using compressed air which helps to open the airways during sleep.
· Mouth pieces ––– used to hold the tongue and jaw to encourage the airway to stay open
· Surgery
Finally, the lifestyle changes you’ve already implemented to manage your type 2 diabetes, like staying active and eating a healthy diet, are great ways for improving OSA.