Did you know that if you have diabetes, you might develop sleeping apnea? These two relate to each other. Read this article to find out how. 


What is Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder associated with breathing problems when you sleep. It is also an early sign of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and Parkinson’s disease. 


What is Diabetes? 

Diabetes is a chronic disease that makes the insulin hormone resistant to sugar levels in the blood which leads to spikes in blood sugar levels.  


The connection between Diabetes and Sleep apnea 

They are closely connected to each other. If you have sleep apnea, you might develop diabetes because sleep apnea destroys your sleeping cycle which is important to regulate the hormones in the body. And blood sugar levels are controlled by the insulin hormone. On the other hand, diabetes raises blood sugar levels that make you urinate more often at night and break your sleeping cycle leading to sleep apnea.  

While they quite complement each other, it is not necessary that one of these necessarily develop the other. But the chances of development of others usually stay high. 


There are many factors that cause sleep apnea including: 

  •  Excessive weight or obesity: Being overweight or obese develops fat in the upper airway area that becomes an obstacle to breathing as you sleep.  
  • Muscle weakness: During sleep, throat and tongue muscles get relaxed, which makes this soft tissue an obstacle in the airway and makes it harder to breathe.  
  • Genetically narrowed airway: You might inherit a narrow airway passage from your parents. 
  • Infections: Tonsils or adenoids can increase the airway or block it, especially in children.  
  • Being male: Males have 2 to 3 times more chances to develop sleep apnea than females.  
  • Being older: As the body starts losing its muscle tone as you grow old it increases the chances of developing sleep apnea.  
  • Use alcohol and other sedatives: Using alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers makes the muscles of the throat relaxed creating airway obstruction.  
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the chances of developing sleep apnea to 2 to 3 times higher as it increases the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.  
  • Nasal congestion: if you have allergies or any anatomical problems it makes it hard to breathe through the nose.   
  • Medical conditions: Diseases like cognitive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and Parkinson’s disease increase the chances of developing sleep apnea.  


  • Loud snoring 
  • Episodes of stoppage of breathing during sleep — which are noticed by people around you 
  • Gasping for air (during sleep) 
  • Awaken with a dry mouth 
  • Morning headaches 
  • Insomnia 
  • Hypersomnia- especially during the day 
  • Difficulty in paying attention while awake 
  • Irritability 

What are the complications of sleep apnea with diabetes? 

If you have diabetes, sleep apnea can make managing your diabetes more difficult. This is due to an increase in carbon dioxide in your blood when you stop breathing while sleeping. As a result, you might suffer from: 

  • Daytime fatigue: Diabetes increases the blood sugar levels in the body and makes you urinate more. In a day you can manage that but at night it interferes with your sleeping cycle and makes you tired the next day. You are not able to concentrate on your work or feel fatigued or irritated.  
  • Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s ability to use insulin is impaired. This increases the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels. 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Cardiovascular Problems: Diabetes over time damages blood vessels that block the supply of blood to the heart and leads to cardiovascular problems such as heart problems, or stroke. Sleep apnea affects breathing, and the oxygen levels drop in the bloodstream which increases blood pressure and starts straining the cardiovascular system.  
  • Early morning headaches and brain fog lead to irritability. 


Treatment is possible for sleep apnea even though you can’t cure diabetes.  

  • The first treatment is recommended that you should lose weight if you have minor symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, snoring, etc. by changing your lifestyle, quitting smoking, or drinking if you do.  
  • If you have some severe symptoms treatment is done through sleep aids or surgeries. These are effective to open the airway that blocks the air to pass.  
  • Therapies like Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oral appliances are the most common devices that increase the supply of air around, keeping the airway open and helping to prevent sleep apnea and snoring. 
  • Surgeries are the last resort to cure sleep apnea where other treatments fail. Surgeries of soft tissue (to make it shrink or remove it completely) to clear the airway, jaw repositioning, or nerve stimulation to control the relaxed muscles that block the airway of breathing are an option for severe sleep apnea.  

Sleep is especially important to maintain a healthy life. You should sleep around 7 to 8 hours at night. If you don’t get good sleep talk to the doctor about whether you have a sleep disorder or not. Taking precautions and maintaining a good lifestyle can help lead a happy, healthy life. 

Want to know, what lifestyle changes can help you fight Diabetes?  For information on Diabetes Management, please call (718) 971-1944.