Diabetes and Sleep Apnea: How Sleep Affects Blood Glucose and Diabetes

Are you irritable or depressed? Have you fallen asleep at the wheel? Do you have high blood pressure? You may have sleep apnea, which can make diabetes more difficult to control. Find out how to treat this common problem and help regulate your blood glucose.


Treat Apnea to Control Diabetes?

Sleep apnea can affect diabetes control in many ways. Struggling for air may put your body into fight-or-flight mode, releasing stress hormones that can raise blood glucose levels. If you're tired, you won't want to take that walk around the block after lunch. While you're at work, you might keep snacking to stay awake.

But can treating sleep apnea lead to better blood glucose control? Arvind Cavale, M.D., an endocrinologist in Feasterville, Pennsylvania, refers about 60 percent of his patients with type 2 diabetes for sleep studies. Cavale says treating sleep apnea reduces insulin resistance, improves alertness and motivation, and leads to more stable blood glucose levels. "We use correction of sleep apnea as a tool in controlling diabetes," he says.

Does This Sound Like You?

This is not a happy scenario: You're soooo tired. As soon as your head hits the pillow, you're asleep. But a little while later, someone nudges you awake. You go back to sleep. Just as you get into a deep sleep, you're nudged again. Sleep ... nudge ... sleep ... nudge. All night long.

The next day, you might wake up with a headache, snap at your family over breakfast, have trouble concentrating at work.

Irritability. Car accidents. Depression. High blood pressure. All because of those nightmarish nudges throughout the night.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA), you're getting those nudges. It's your body fighting for air. And sleep apnea may be one explanation for difficulty in controlling blood glucose and blood pressure levels.