Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

The connection between sleep apnea and diabetes

It's always a good time to reflect on important health information and how conditions can be interlinked. That's why we're reexamining the relationship between sleep apnea and diabetes.

What is diabetes?

As the World Health Organization points out, diabetes is a chronic disease that affects nearly 350 million people worldwide, and it occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (type 1) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (type 2). The cause of type 1 diabetes isn’t known and it’s not preventable with current knowledge. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world,1 and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. In 2014, 9% of adults 18 years and older had diabetes. In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths.

Sleep apnea and diabetes

Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder that causes your body to stop breathing while you sleep. It’s a potentially fatal condition with harmful complications that affects 1 in 4 Americans.2 However, more than 85% remain undiagnosed and untreated.Untreated sleep apnea is associated with a variety of dangerous comorbidities such as heart failure, stroke and obesity.

In a previous blog post, we covered how sleep apnea and diabetes are strongly associated with one another – with clinical research showing that around 50% of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea.4 And perhaps even more alarming is that researchers believe 86% of obese type 2 diabetic patients suffer from sleep apnea.5 While researchers still don’t know exactly what causes this connection or whether one condition directly causes the other, it’s important for readers with sleep apnea to be aware of their risk for diabetes and vice versa. For type 2 diabetics who have sleep apnea, research has shown that CPAP usage (the gold standard of sleep apnea treatment) can improve glucose control.

Diabetes prevention

One key message is that a large proportion of diabetes cases are preventable. Simple lifestyle changes have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. Maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes. If you feel like living a healthy lifestyle is more difficult because of a lack of energy, or you have trouble sleeping or snore, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about taking a sleep test.  



  1. Definition, diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Part 1: Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1999 (WHO/NCD/NCS/99.2).
  2. Peppard PE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2013
  3. Young T et al. Sleep 1997
  4. Einhorn D et al. Endocr Pract. 2007;13(4):355-62.
  5. Foster GD et al. Obstructive sleep apnea among obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2009;32(6):1017-9.


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