A new research study has linked a sleep disorder with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The research, recently published in the medical journal Sleep Medicine, found participants with severe sleep apnea were approximately 70 percent more likely to develop diabetes.
Jeanne Cahill, a diabetes expert at Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, says that these findings support recommendations from the International Diabetes Federation that patients with one condition should also be screened for the other. Sleep apnea is disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep.
“The key message from this study is that all individuals who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea should be screened for diabetes,” says Cahill. “A simple blood test of blood sugar levels can determine if someone is falling into pre-diabetes range. If caught early, individuals have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
Evidence has been growing over the last two decades to confirm that sleep apnea is associated with insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. In this particular study, participants who had severe obstructive sleep apnea at the start of the study were 70 percent more likely to develop diabetes. The increased risk remained when the researchers only included those who were obese.
“We know that obesity increases the risk of both sleep apnea and diabetes and this new finding tells us that there is now a direct link between the two,” says Cahill. “It’s important for health care providers to understand the connection and educate their patients.”
In observance of National Diabetes Month in November, Mercy Gilbert’s Center for Diabetes Management is hosting free diabetes screening tests. The screenings will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 29 from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required and can be done by visiting dignityhealth.org/arizona/register. Once on the web page, select the orange box to search for events, and enter A1c in the search box.
Mercy Gilbert also offers a robust sleep medicine program that provides sleep studies to diagnose and treat sleep apnea or other long term sleep disorders. For more information, the public can visit dignityhealth.org/mercygilbert/services/sleep-center.