With age and changing lifestyle habits, one becomes more prone to mild and chronic sleep disorders. And one of the most common and potentially serious disorders in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts is sleep apnea. Some of the most palpable symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. According to experts, when left untreated, sleep apnea can result in more serious health problems. As such, is there a link between sleep apnea and diabetes, too? Experts agree!
Explaining the same, Dr Samith A Shetty, Consultant Diabetologist, Sparsh Hospital, said, “Diabetes and sleep apnea have some common risk factors, and one of them is obesity. Obesity, in turn, causes and worsens insulin resistance — a predominant reason why people get diabetes.” He elucidated that if “a patient has obstructive sleep apnea, obesity is usually one of the causes, which is also a risk factor for diabetes”.
Adding that it is “an important risk factor for diabetes”, Dr Shetty said, “Obstructive Sleep Apnea alters the glucose metabolism, promotes insulin resistance and, therefore, leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. The moderator in this is obesity. Obesity moderates it in are becoming more rapid.”
Agreeing, Dr Sanjay Verma, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram said, “Chronic sleep loss may cause insulin resistance, which can cause diabetes and high blood sugar levels. Hormones that regulate hunger can be impacted by long-term sleep loss.”
He cited research showing a connection between poor sleep and reduced leptin levels, which assist in the regulation of glucose metabolism. Highlighting the link further, Dr Verma said, “The widespread disorder, known as obstructive sleep apnea, is characterised by upper airway instability as you sleep, which causes the airflow to be significantly diminished or nonexistent. Regular oxygen desaturations, cyclical variations in blood pressure and heart rate, and sleep architecture disruptions such as the loss of slow-wave and rapid eye movement sleep are frequently present during these episodes.”
Sleep apnea is an important risk factor for diabetes (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
As such, it has come to light that a number of sleep-related problems may play a significant role in the onset of type 2 diabetes. “The incidence of type 2 diabetes is correlated with short sleep duration and circadian rhythm abnormalities,” the expert said.
A study, published in Pulmonology Journal, stated that diabetes mellitus (DM) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are common disorders that often coexist.
Conversely, some diabetics tend to develop sleep apnea, too. “One out of 4 diabetes patients develop sleep apnea,” Dr Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, Additional Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Greater Noida said.
In addition to diabetes, sleep apnea can lead to other chronic health conditions, too. “If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in major health issues like high blood pressure and cardiac issues. Even with a full night’s sleep, untreated sleep apnea causes breathing to stop regularly while you sleep, which results in loud snoring and daytime fatigue,” Dr Verma said.
It can also lead to weakness, lack of interest, mood swings and irritability. “When you sleep at night, your organs are supposed to be put under rest and the majority of the organs do not work by themselves at night. They are supposed to take a break and, hence, work below-function capacities. So when you snore at night, the body is deprived of oxygen. This does not happen to people who do not snore. When a person snores, the lungs and heart have to re-kick in and need to function like how they work in the morning. Which means they start working during the resting phase. The body then tries to compensate for some time and then gives up,” Dr Shetty explained.
What can you do?
With sleep apnea being a major risk factor for diabetes and other chronic health concerns, follow these measures suggested by the experts.
Dr Verma suggested things you must stay away from:
*Caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Your body may be affected for up to 8 hours.
*Evening alcohol consumption. It may have an impact on your slumber breathing. It may also cause you to wake up and have an impact on your sleep.
*Eating a lot at night. Eating late might increase blood sugar levels overnight and create indigestion.
*Naps after 3 pm. When it’s time for bed, this may make you feel less worn out.
*Nicotine. It behaves like coffee.
(Next in the series: Do you take a shower before going to sleep?)