The Troubling Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

Do you snore a lot? Does your partner ever notice you gasp for air in the middle of the night? Do you wake up feeling tired and unrested almost every day? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that reduces your body’s oxygen intake while sleeping.

Obstructive sleep apnea is often comorbid with or exaggerates other health problems, including diabetes. Together the two can be especially dangerous.

About Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

Sleep apnea is an umbrella term for several different disorders that cause breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. The most common variety, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs due to relaxed throat muscles. When these muscles relax, they no longer support the soft tissues in your throat, which partially collapse and obstruct your airway. When air vibrates these tissues, it produces the distinctive sound of snoring.

Diabetes is a disease related your body’s processing of glucose, also called blood sugar. Normally, a hormone called insulin absorbs glucose into your cells as an energy source. But if your body doesn’t make enough insulin – or if your cells show insulin resistance – excess sugar collects in your blood. This excess sugar can cause serious, even life-threating health problems.

How Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Interact

Because it affects your breathing, sleep apnea can cause excess carbon dioxide to collect in your blood. In addition to raising your risk for heart disease – which can accelerate the onset of type 2 diabetes – this promotes insulin resistance and makes it harder for your body to process glucose. Because of this, scientists have clearly stated that sleep apnea can cause diabetes.

However, it is not clear that diabetes causes sleep apnea. That said, many risk factors for diabetes overlap with sleep apnea, including diet and obesity. If you have diabetes, you should look out for signs of sleep apnea so that it does not exacerbate your condition.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, there are several treatments available. One of the simplest and most effective is an oral sleep appliance, or OSA. You wear this custom-fit device in your mouth while you sleep, gently pushing your jaw forward to keep your airway open.

Klooster Family Dentistry is proud to offer oral sleep appliances to our patients in the Triangle. The process is simple, and covered by most insurance plans! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.