According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, with an additional 79 million American adults having prediabetes.  As a diabetic, regulating blood sugars is hard enough, especially if the additional component of sleep apnea lingers.  Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder where a temporary airway collapse either restricts or stops the individual’s airflow during sleep. 

During the airflow restriction the blood oxygen levels usually drop, the brain tells the body it needs to breath, and the individual awakens; usually gasping for air.  This cycle often occurs multiple times throughout the night placing strain on the endocrine system, which is responsible for insulin levels and control.  Studies state that these cycles of oxygen level drops and fragmented sleep from the awakenings may also lead to developing or aggravating type 2 diabetes.

According to the Diabetes Action Network, up to 90% of people who have obstructive sleep apnea are unaware they have it, with many of these also being diabetic.  The symptoms of sleep apnea are many, with some of them being:

  • Loud Snoring
  • Excessive Sleepiness
  • Observed Pauses in Breathing
  • Morning Headaches
  • Lack of Energy
  • Frequent Nighttime Urination
  • Difficulty Concentrating and Irritability
  • Comorbidities

A type 2 diabetic with obstructive sleep apnea, who receives therapy for their sleep apnea, can lower their glucose levels.  Studies have proven when a sleep apnea sufferer wears a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for at least four hours a night they show a significant reduction in their glucose levels and for some a reduced need for medication.

The gold standard of treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine.  This treatment involves wearing a mask to supply a steady flow of air to prevent the airway from collapsing.  This allows the body to be adequately oxygenated, helps eliminate the frequent awakenings, and reduces the risk for comorbidities such as diabetes.

If you have questions, talk with your health care provider or call (641) 332-3838 to discuss with our Respiratory Therapist.

Amber Brown CCT, RPSGT
Director of Clinical Operations – SomniTech

*Pandey, Demede, Zizi, Haija, Jean-Louis, & McFarlane (2011). Sleep Apnea and Diabetes: Insights into Emerging Evidence. National Institutes of Health. 11(1), 35-40. Doi:10.1007/s11892-010-0164-9. Retrieved from

*Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind Diabetes Support and Information. (2005). 20(4).