The facts about obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and type 2 diabetes
In Australia, 1.2 million people live with type 2 diabetes and a further 500,000 are undiagnosed.1,2
There is a strong link between type 2 diabetes and OSA. 50-80% of people diagnosed with diabetes also experience OSA.3
A lack of sleep and OSA makes it difficult for people with type 2 diabetes to manage blood glucose levels.
Untreated OSA can lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, depression, diabetes and accidents.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), also spelled obstructive sleep apnea, is a common sleep condition, where a person’s throat becomes partially or completely blocked while they are asleep, causing them to stop breathing. As a result, blood oxygen levels fall. Symptoms of OSA include snoring, feeling tired and unrefreshed, paused breathing while sleeping and waking up and choking or gasping for air.
Lack of sleep and diabetes
The general recommendation is that adults need between seven to nine hours of good quality sleep a night.
Not getting enough sleep places you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to your body not being able to regulate glucose levels properly. Feeling tired can also lead to an increased appetite, with your body craving carbohydrates and sugary foods to help you stay awake.
For people living with diabetes, sleep issues are common due to overnight variations in blood glucose levels (BGLs), waking up to check BGLs or being woken up by diabetes technology alarms, or symptoms of high BGLs including a dry mouth or the need to pass urine during the night.
When lack of sleep or day time fatigue is an issue, OSA should be considered.
Untreated sleep apnoea and diabetes
Untreated OSA causes stress on the body and there is strong evidence that untreated moderate to severe OSA increases the risk of cardiovascular issues (high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack), diabetes, depression and being involved in accidents.
For people living with diabetes, not getting enough sleep can lead to changes in hormones such as less insulin being released into the body when you eat. Your body will also produce more stress hormone (called cortisol) which helps keep you awake. This makes it harder for insulin to do its job and ultimately leads to high BGLs. Ongoing and untreated high BGLs increase the risk of diabetes-related complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, foot and vision problems.
Seeking treatment for OSA will help manage your symptoms, improve your quality of life and may reduce your risk of adverse health outcomes.
The first step in addressing OSA is screening.
Fortunately, screening is as simple as asking your general practitioner or by using the SleepCheck application (app).
SleepCheck is a screening device for adults which is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia. SleepCheck analyses your breathing and snore sounds while you sleep to assess your risk of OSA.
The app is available for download (iPhone) and is designed to be used in the comfort of your own home.
Download the SleepCheck app
Once installed on your iPhone, provide your age, gender and neck size. This information is used to accurately assess your risk of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Go to sleep with SleepCheck
Set up your optimum sleeping environment and press record. Make sure you sleep alone; your phone is charging and on 'Do Not Disturb'.
Wake up to your results
When you wake up, tap and hold the 'Stop' button. Your analysis will be performed, and you’ll get your report.
Mild OSA is often relieved or reduced by changing sleep positions. Sleeping on your side reduces the likelihood of OSA. Special pillows or wedges can also help.
Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight and waist circumference.
Reducing alcohol consumption if you drink.
Good sleeping habits and routine prior to bed can help improve sleep.
Moderate to severe OSA requires diagnosis via a sleep study and active treatment. Treatment may require a device such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or an oral appliance such as a mouth guard that is fitted by a specialist dentist.
Diabetes-related content provided by Diabetes Queensland
For expert advice and support to manage your diabetes, or to join our community contact Diabetes Queensland on:
Ph: 1800 177 055 - https://www.diabetesqld.org.au/
1. National Diabetes Services Scheme. Australian Diabetes Map. Accessed 4/9/2020. https://map.ndss.com.au/
2. Diabetes Australia. Diabetes in Australia. Accessed 4/09/2020. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia
3. Sleep Health Foundation. Diabetes and Sleep. Accessed 4/09/2020. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/diabetes-sleep.html