Study Shows Sleep Apnea Increases Diabetes Risk

male with sleep apnea wears a CPAP

People who have obstructive sleep apnea are also at risk for developing Type II diabetes, according to new research published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

“Over the last two decades, evidence has been accruing that sleep apnea may be associated with insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and Type II diabetes,” said study leader Mako Nagayoshi of Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Science in Japan.

New sleep apnea study is largest of its kind

According to researchers, 13% of men and 6% of women have moderate to severe undiagnosed sleep apnea. The World Health Organization estimates that about 1 in 10 adults have diabetes. The links between sleep apnea, obesity and diabetes have long been suspected, but previous studies included a small number of participants and failed to control for other factors.

This particular data included 1,453 participants with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes, but were categorized as “mild”, “moderate”, or “severe” sleep apnea sufferers. They were measured against normal control subjects for comparison.

After approximately 13 years, 285 people developed Type II diabetes. Those with “severe” sleep apnea were 70 percent more likely to develop diabetes than the “normal” control subjects.

The current research underscores the need to screen for sleep apnea in patients who are at risk for developing diabetes – particularly the sedentary and overweight. Likewise, people with diabetes should be screened for sleep apnea so care providers can treat sleep disturbances caused by blocked air passageways.

Sleep apnea treatment

More research is needed to investigate how effective treating sleep apnea can be at reducing the risk of diabetes, says Dr. Rashmi Nisha Aurora, a sleep medicine expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

However, a study conducted last year by researchers at McGill University found that patients with prediabetes who used a CPAP machine for eight hours a night were able to lower their risk of developing diabetes.

After just two weeks of treatment, the fasting glucose levels of the CPAP group were significantly improved and they had 27 percent lower levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine and lowered blood pressure.

However, researchers admitted that eight hours of CPAP a night was “difficult to achieve in real-life”, as many patients do not like wearing a full face mask as they sleep.

How can your dentist help?

One alternative to CPAP treatment can be found at your doctor’s office. Dr. David Blaustein, a Midtown Manhattan dentist with Chelsea Dental Aesthetics, offers custom oral appliances that are worn like mouth-guards to reposition the jaw and tongue, keeping airways open at night.

“Most of my patients have tried CPAP,” he explains, “but discontinued use due to waking with dry throats in the morning, difficulty falling asleep due to the loud noise of the machine, or the inability to adequately maintain the equipment.” Furthermore, Dr. Blaustein says, “Frequent travelers find that it’s simply not feasible to take their CPAP machines with them wherever they go, so oral appliance therapy becomes a more desirable option due to its portability.”

To initiate treatment, patients undergo a basic oral exam and have x-rays taken. Dr. Blaustein takes impressions of the teeth and creates a custom-made mouthpiece right in his New York City office. Small adjustments are made to ensure a comfortable fit.

For more information about sleep apnea treatment with Chelsea Dental Aesthetics, call 347-774-4015.

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