Diabetes and Sleep Apnoea
Diabetes and sleep apnoea are strongly associated with one another. Clinical research shows that as many as 48% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have also been diagnosed with sleep apnoea.1 Even more striking, researchers believe that 86% of obese type 2 diabetic patients suffer from sleep apnoea.2
What does that mean? Although these statistics don’t necessarily prove that diabetes causes sleep apnoea (or vice versa), it’s clear that there’s a real medical connection here – one which the medical community has been exploring for decades. It also means that if you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you may want to consider paying close attention to the risk factors of sleep apnoea.
“Based on the current evidence, clinicians need to address the risk of OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea] in patients with type 2 diabetes,” advise the authors of a 2008 study published in the journal Chest, “and, conversely, evaluate the presence of type 2 diabetes in patients with OSA.”3
Diabetes and sleep apnoea: What’s the relationship?
Of course, despite the numerous research articles published on the association between sleep apnoea and diabetes – and there are a lot – researchers still don’t know exactly what causes this connection. And it hasn’t been proven in specific terms whether one condition directly causes the other.
In fact, a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine attempted to find out “whether an independent relationship” existed between type 2 diabetes and sleep-disordered breathing.4 Looking for an “independent relationship” means that researchers hoped to discover the secret behind the connection between sleep apnoea and diabetes and why so many people have both conditions.
Unfortunately, that study was inconclusive, and the real source of the connection between sleep apnoea and diabetes remains unknown. Although, combined evidence from population and clinical-based studies suggest there is an independent association between OSA and type 2 diabetes, highlighting the importance of considering each of these two diseases if you have one of them.3
Diabetes and Sleep Apnoea: Awareness and prevention
We can’t say that if you have sleep apnoea, you’ll get diabetes, or vice versa. But with such a large overlap between these two conditions, it’s sensible to suspect that if you do have one of these conditions, your likelihood of developing the other is increased.
That means paying extra close attention to the risk factors for diabetes if you have sleep apnea, and making sure you’re doing all you can to ensure healthy sleep if you happen to be diabetic.
Even health professionals are on the lookout for the connection. The international Diabetes Federation Taskforce on epidemiology and Prevention strongly recommends that health professionals working in both type 2 diabetes and SDB adopt clinical practices to ensure that a patient presenting with one condition is considered for the other.”
How can I tell if I have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnoea include snoring and gasping or choking during sleep, sleepiness, forgetfulness, poor concentration and lack of energy during the day, frequent urination at night, sexual dysfunction, morning headaches, night sweats, weight gain and a depressed mood. If you’re constantly tired or have other conditions linked to sleep apnoea, it’s always advisable to speak to your GP or healthcare professional.
Take our quick screening test* to find out if you’re at risk and learn about next steps.
* Please note that the score you receive from our quiz is not a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea; if your score shows you are “at risk” or you are suffering from excessive tiredness or any other symptoms that give you cause for concern, you should always see your GP.
1 Einhorn D, Stewart DA, Erman MK, Gordon N, Philis-Tsimikas A, Casal E. “Prevalence of sleep apnea in a population of adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Endocr Pract. 2007 Jul-Aug;13(4):355-62.
2 Foster GD, Sanders MH, Millman R, Zammit G, Borradaile KE, Newman AB, Wadden TA, Kelley D, Wing RR, Sunyer FX, Darcey V, Kuna ST; Sleep AHEAD Research Group. “Obstructive sleep apnea among obese patients with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 2009 Jun;32(6):1017-9. doi: 10.2337/dc08-1776. Epub 2009 Mar 11.
3 Tasali E, Mokhlesi B, Van Cauter E. “Obstructive sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes: interacting epidemics.” Chest. 2008 Feb;133(2):496-506. doi: 10.1378/chest.07-0828.
4 Shaw JE, Punjabi NM, Wilding JP, Alberti KG, Zimmet PZ. “Sleep-disordered breathing and type 2 diabetes: a report from the International Diabetes Federation Taskforce on Epidemiology and Prevention.” Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2008 Jul; 81(1):2-12.
This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.
If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice, or other institution with which the authors are affiliated and do not directly reflect the views of ResMed or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.