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Over One-Third of Diabetics Have Sleep Apnea

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Study finds that older males are at especially high risk for nighttime awakenings. 

People with type 2 diabetes who drag themselves through the day may be among the 36 percent of diabetics suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research.

Sleep apnea occurs when impaired breathing due to collapsed airways triggers multiple nighttime awakenings.

Researchers at The Whittier Institute for Diabetes in La Jolla, Calif., analyzed health data from 279 adults with type 2 diabetes. They found that one out of three diabetics also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. Men, particularly those over the age of 62, were more than twice as likely as women to experience interrupted sleep.

Previous research has indicated a relationship between obstructive sleep apnea, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, so the connection with type 2 diabetes is not surprising. This is the first study to analyze data from both men and women at a diabetes clinic, the researchers said.

"These findings demonstrate that obstructive sleep apnea has a high prevalence in adults with type 2 diabetes," principal investigator Dr. Daniel Einhorn said in a prepared statement. "Given that treatment of obstructive sleep apnea has the potential to both decrease blood pressure and improve glycemic [blood sugar] control, individuals with type 2 diabetes should be regularly screened for the presence of sleep apnea," he said.

According to previous research, treating people who have both obstructive sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes with "continuous positive airway pressure" therapy not only helps manage the sleep interruptions but also reduces blood sugar levels. The researchers recommend that clinicians screen patients with type 2 diabetes for obstructive sleep apnea.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 20 million people in the United States have diabetes, with more than one in five adults over the age of 60 suffering from the disease. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, a disease in which the body does not make or use insulin effectively.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that more than 18 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, although the majority of people have not been diagnosed with the disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea is related to a multitude of health risks, including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, sexual dysfunction and an increased risk of car accidents.

Source: Diabetes In Control: Endocrine Practice, August 2007

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