Even more concerning, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. The condition can be caused by an autoimmune problem, where the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. This is known as type 1 diabetes. Or, the condition can be type 2 diabeteswhich arises from insulin resistance--where the body doesn’t respond to insulin and blood sugar remains at abnormal levels. Type 2 diabetes is more common and is not an autoimmune disease but rather a “lifestyle disease” once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can be managed and prevented.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, but recent research has pinpointed another condition that is linked as well: sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is more than just an issue with sleep quality. Sleep apnea is the interruption of breathing, typically caused when tissue in the back of the throat collapses into the airway, blocking the breath, and is associated with a host of health issues. Experts have grown certain that the disorder increases cardiovascular (heart) risk, for example. There's also mounting evidence that sleep apnea may contribute to problems like insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
“If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), you’re more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea; and if you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to have hypertension,"says Said Mostafavi, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer for Advanced Sleep Medicine Services, Inc. and a sleep specialist. "In the same way, if you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have sleep apnea; and if you have sleep apnea you’re more likely to have diabetes. So even though we don’t understand all the mechanisms, we know there is a connection between diabetes and sleep apnea. Incidence of OSA in patients with diabetes is higher than the general population regardless of BMI.
Prevalence of OSA is 71% in patients with type 2 diabetes. This is significantly greater than the general population at 4-10%.