Adults, especially seniors, with type 2 diabetes are likely to experience sleep apnea which causes pauses in breathing during sleep. While gasping and choking are symptoms of sleep apnea, they not often occur. However, snoring is the most common symptom.
According to a study published by Family Medicine in 2013, adults with type 2 diabetes have nearly 50 percent chances of having sleep apnea.
A study by American Diabetes Association says sleep apnea can deteriorate symptoms of diabetes and causes other conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
If this sleep disorder remains untreated, it can contribute to the increase in blood glucose levels and chronic fatigue leading to poor quality of life. Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea often coexist due to the shared risk factor – obesity. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, if severe sleep apnea remains untreated in a person with type 2 diabetes, he or she is likely to have a poor control of sugar levels.
Sleep Apnea – More Than Just Snoring
Sleep apnea is a disorder manifested by interruptions in breathing. These pauses, also called apneas, wakes the person because he or she gasps for air. This process can cause lack of proper sleep and chronic fatigue.
The most common and serious types of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes blocked or collapsed airways. Loud snoring, morning headaches, and daytime sleepiness are a few common symptoms of OSA.
According to National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, but many people remain undiagnosed. This is because they aren’t aware they are struggling with breathing at night.
Relation between Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes
The causes of sleep apnea and its connection with type 2 diabetes, both are related to weight. People with type 2 diabetes are usually obese, insulin resistant, and have large amounts of fat surrounding their organs, also called visceral fat. Obesity causes the neck and throat tissues to obstruct the airways, leading to a blockage or chock.
Sleep apnea is also related to high blood glucose levels due to the stress caused by chronic sleep deprivation and constant awakenings in the night. When the body gets stressed, the stress hormones can release stored sugar into the liver. This increase in blood sugar levels can cause insulin resistance in your aging loved one.
Test Your Loved One for Sleep Apnea
To determine whether you have sleep apnea, follow a STOP questionnaire approach.
S – Do you SNORE too loud? (Loud enough to be heard in another room)
T – Do you often feel TIRED and sleepy? (Sleepy, especially during the most inactive times of the day)
O – Has anyone OBSERVED you stopped breathing in sleep or get chocked?
P – Do you have high blood PRESSURE?
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
If your loved one answers yes to two or more questions, talk with a doctor. The doctor will ask about your loved one’s medical history, have a physical exam, and may even discuss with your or a caregiver to know if he or she snores or gets choked while sleeping.
A sleep study, also known as polysomnography, is also done to determine how and for how long a person sleeps. Polysomnography is performed overnight in a sleep lab where the doctors or technicians wire up the person and observe his or her movement and breathing patterns.
A pulse oximeter is also used to diagnose sleep apnea, your loved one’s doctor can prescribe it to use at home. Evaluating sleep at home is less expensive than in a lab, but the accuracy in results may not occur.
Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Changes
If your loved one’s sleep apnea is mild, simple lifestyle changes will be better, like losing weight which can keep the throat from blocking by lowering pressure on the neck. Encourage him or her to limit alcohol and drugs and quit smoking as these are the major risk factors for sleep apnea and also deprivation.
Use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machine
Sleep apnea is also treated by using a CPAP machine. In this procedure, the person with sleep apnea wears a mask over the nose and the machine blows air into the throat to prevent obstruction in the airway. The pressure in adjusted just to keep the throat open. Studies have found CPAP therapy to be important during the deepest parts of sleep.
According to a study published by Diabetes Care in 2015, events of sleep apnea that happen during the rapid eye movement part of sleep had the most harmful effects on long-term blood sugar control. Another study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2015 found using CPAP machine during eight hours of sleep can enhance blood sugar levels and lower the risk for diabetes.
Sleeping with CPAP may feel uncomfortable, but it is crucial and once adjusted, it typically makes people with sleep apnea have a sound sleep.
Consult a Dentist
Dentists who have specialized in treating sleep apnea can custom design dental devices that can keep the airway unblocked during sleep.
Some surgical methods can reset the lower jaw or even widen the airway by shrinking, stiffening, or removing excess tissues in the throat or mouth. These methods can enlarge the breathing passage, reducing the chances of getting collapsed and obstructed.
People with type 2 diabetes should look for symptoms of sleep apnea and get its proper diagnosis and treatment. It will help them reduce their blood glucose levels and quality of sleep. If your loved one has type 2 diabetes, it can be easier for him or her to control sleep apnea by eliminating stress hormones that are released by frequent interruptions in sleep.
Marina Torres is fun loving and loves to blog. She is a story teller, a foodie and looks forward to anything adventurous. She is a seasoned writer with experience in writing on any topic that catches her fancy. Currently, she is working for Home Care Assistance of Mississauga.