Researchers found that treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) not only helped people sleep better, but it also improved their blood sugar (glucose) levels, which can reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, such as heart and kidney disease.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that disrupts healthy sleeping patterns and affects up to 4% of men and 2% of women. The condition causes a person's breathing to become irregular or briefly stop as the result of a collapsed airway. CPAP is a device with a mask and hose which is hooked to the patient. The device forces air into the patient and keeps the airway open.
"With such clear evidence for the high risk of sleep apnea among patients with Type II diabetes, it is encouraging that our data show patients can achieve better control of their glucose levels with CPAP therapy," says researcher James Herdegen, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a news release.
Better Sleep, Better Diabetes Control
In the study, which appears in the Feb. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers evaluated the effects of sleep apnea treatment with CPAP on blood sugar levels in a group of 25 people with type 2 diabetes.
Each of the patients received the treatment for at least four hours a night for about three months.
The results showed that the sleep apnea treatment prompted a significant reduction in blood sugar levels.
Researchers say in light of the high prevalence of sleep apnea and obesity in people with diabetes, these results suggest that the treatment of sleep apnea can have important health benefits. They say people with diabetes who have symptoms of sleep apnea, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and loud, persistent snoring, should be evaluated for sleep apnea and seek treatment for the sleep disorder.
The researchers say CPAP may improve blood sugar levels by lowering insulin resistance. Restless sleep causes an increase in hormones that work against insulin's action. By improving sleep, CPAP may improve hormone levels.