Studies Show Link Between Sleep Disorders and Type 2 Diabetes

Written by Kari Smith, RD and Certified Diabetes Educator, Rose Medical Center

Did you know that there is a close relationship between disordered sleeping and diabetes? Studies estimate that between 40 and 80 percent of people with disordered sleep have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Sleep disorders often go undiagnosed, which likely explains the large range in the percentages.  Image

Body weight may also play a role, but research demonstrates that there is also an independent association between the two conditions. Whether or not a person is overweight, there is growing evidence that sleep disturbances lead to impaired fasting glucose, glucose intolerance and Type 2 diabetes.

The most common sleep disorder associated with glucose intolerance is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the person breathes very shallowly or even pauses breathing during sleep. Sleep quality is affected when this happens, because as the oxygen level to the brain and body decreases, sleep is interrupted and a shallower, less restful sleep is the result. If the sleep isn’t restorative, or if the body is going without needed oxygen, this is stressful to the body, and higher glucose levels result.

One study showed that CPAP therapy (wearing a continuous air pressure mask while sleeping) lowered the participants overall glucose level by 28%, resulting in much improved A1c levels (A1c levels are a measurement of blood glucose levels). Those individuals on insulin required much less medication to continue normal glucose control, and individuals not on medication also saw dramatic improvements in overall glucose control.

Women with gestational diabetes have a seven-fold higher prevalence of sleep apnea, and should be evaluated for this condition, especially if they are also overweight, have hypertension, or complain of interrupted sleep.

This evaluation should be done in a sleep center where overnight observation and monitoring will effectively measure periods of interrupted breathing and the amount of oxygen in the blood, heart rate, blood pressure, and eye movements. These results help the doctor design effective treatment plans.

The Rose Sleep Disorders Center and the Rose Diabetes Center are resources available for patients and doctors seeking information. They can be contacted to schedule diabetes education classes or to schedule a sleep study by calling:

Rose Sleep Disorders Center – 303-320-7471

The Rose Diabetes Center – 303-320-2490


IDF Consensus Statement on Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes – Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice

Endocrine Society (2013, August 20). Gestational diabetes tied to seven-fold increase in sleep apnea risk.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Clinical trials report

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