New evidence that sleep apnoea is one of the main causes of diabetes

Some recent research conducted in France has reached the conclusion that if a person suffers from obstructive sleep apnoea, (OSA), then they will have a much higher chance of having diabetes.

One of the main problems of sleep apnoea is that the person who has it will stop breathing many times during the night, and will snore loudly, often complaining the next day of a poor night’s sleep. Often they do not realize why as they are not aware of having stopped breathing, perhaps several hundred times during their sleep.

The research team, based at the University of Angers, in western France, concluded that sleep apnoea is more often than not undiagnosed and therefore goes untreated, and it could well be one of the key causes in the development of diabetes.

Sleep Apnoea and Diabetes Test

They tested the glucose levels, and studied approximately 700 men, a major problem group for sleep apnoea, particularly those men who were overweight and middle aged. All those tested had been referred by their doctor to sleep clinics, because of the suspicion of sleep apnoea in varying degrees of severity.

Most tested positive for sleep apnoea but around half of them also had diabetes or insulin resistance, which is a glucose abnormality that usually continues to become diabetes later. The link between the sleep disorder and diabetes was clearly established and the more serious their sleep apnoea, the higher their insulin resistance.

What is more important is that the research seems to have established an explanation for the link between the two. Despite many respondents being overweight this was not the cause, merely incidental. It has been proposed that the primary cause is the fall in oxygen when breathing repeatedly stops and this disturbs the glucose metabolism of the body.

It is already accepted that if sleep apnoea, however mild, is treated, usually by wearing an ant-snoring oral appliance at night, then health and quality of life for both those suffering from the problem, and their partner, shows immediate improvement, as well as safeguarding long term health. More severe cases that develop, usually because the problem has not been treated early will require the use of CPAP breathing apparatus through the night. Many sufferers dislike using this equipment for a number of reasons.

It is now recommended in France, since this research, that all snorers be immediately screened for diabetes. The researchers say that snoring should not be dismissed as a nuisance with no medical significance. If OSA is present, it should be diagnosed and treated. By simply wearing an oral appliance similar to a sports-style gum-shield whilst sleeping, severe health problems such as diabetes, along with others, can be prevented.

By John Redfern