Patients who are experiencing out-of-control blood sugar levels need to schedule a visit with their primary care physician. When the patient visits their doctor, what’s interesting is they might be asked about how well they are sleeping. This is because sleep is closely linked to diabetes. When blood sugar levels are really high, the kidneys are attempting to get rid of it by urinating. And when this occurs, patients might be getting up and going to the bathroom all night long. Diabetes and sleep complications go hand-in-hand.

Sleep apnea can increase a patient’s risk of type 2 diabetes, but diabetes is extremely preventable if caught early. In a study conducted by the International Diabetes Federation, patients with one condition should be screened for the other too. This means, if a patient is diabetic, they should be screened for sleep apnea and vice versa.

By providing our patients with proper treatment of sleep apnea, we can potentially help prevent diabetes from developing. However, if the patient is already diabetic, we can help decrease symptoms through proper treatment of sleep apnea—it can help with the management of diabetes.

What Is the Connection?

It has been shown that rates of diabetes are higher among people with sleep apnea, as they share common risk factors, including obesity and advancing age. More than half of people that are obese are considered to be at a high risk for developing sleep apnea, while further studies also suggest that having sleep apnea increases the risk of developing diabetes.

As you might know, both diabetes and sleep apnea share a long list of potential complications, including the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Eye disease
  • Changes in glucose metabolism
  • Weight control problems

A person who suffers from sleep apnea can experience difficulty with losing weight due to the constant stress of not sleeping. This is because stress causes high levels of cortisol and steroids, which make weight loss more difficult. And when a person is tired day in and day out, he or she might not have the energy needed to hit the gym harder or even at all.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in every 10 adults suffers from diabetes. Of those with diabetes, a majority have type 2 diabetes, which is when the body can’t make or process enough of the insulin hormone. As a result, obesity is an increased risk of both sleep apnea and diabetes.

In recent studies, as well as past research, a direct link between sleep apnea and diabetes can be seen. The findings place a high amount of importance in the need to prevent sleep apnea and screen for diabetes in those already diagnosed with sleep apnea. This would include overweight and physically inactive people.

While ongoing research is still being completed, it is important to understand the connection that exists between sleep apnea and diabetes.

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS

Treatment to Help Patients

While treating sleep apnea is important in getting a good night’s rest, treatment can also help improve and maybe even eradicate many other diabetes complications.  In addition to decreasing daytime sleepiness and removing a barrier to effective weight loss and/or management, treating sleep apnea can also improve an array of other complications, including:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Memory, concentration, and other cognitive functioning
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Productivity during the day with fewer sick days
  • Decrease in the risk of traffic accidents

Getting a better night’s sleep through sleep apnea treatment can go a long way toward resolving diabetes complications. Remember, a better night’s sleep can go a long way toward improving a patient’s overall health and wellbeing. Take the next steps toward providing your patients with quality health care through the treatment of sleep apnea and understanding the connection with diabetes.

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS, is the owner of Atlanta’s Craniofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Center of Georgia.