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February 25, 2009 > If You Have Diabetes, You May Not be Getting a Proper Night's Rest

If You Have Diabetes, You May Not be Getting a Proper Night's Rest

Washington Hospital Seminar Examines Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

Most people know diabetes is a serious disease. But did you know a common sleeping disorder can make type 2 diabetes worse, or even cause it? If you snore or continually wake up feeling tired, you could have sleep apnea.

"It is critical for people with type 2 diabetes to pay attention to their sleep patterns," said Dr. Nitun Verma, a sleep medicine specialist and Medical Director at the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders. "Sleep apnea could be contributing to your diabetes."

He will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Difficulty Falling to Sleep? You Could Have Sleep Apnea," part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters Education Series. The seminar is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, from 7 to 8 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070. Participants are encouraged to stay for the diabetes support group that will take place immediately after the lecture. (See the box below for more information about the support group.)

Verma will provide an overview of sleep apnea, including what causes it and some of the signs to look for in sleep and during waking hours. The most common symptom is snoring.

"It's very unusual to snore and not have sleep apnea," he said.

Sleep apnea occurs when the airways become blocked during sleep, causing you to stop breathing repeatedly during the night. Each time, the brain reacts and jolts the body awake so it will take a breath. People with sleep apnea are awakened by this reaction sometimes hundreds of times a night, making it impossible to get a good night's rest.

Verma will explain how this impacts the body's ability to efficiently use insulin, a hormone that allows our bodies to move sugar out of the blood and into the parts of the body that need it. The inability to respond to insulin is what causes type 2 diabetes. When this process is not working correctly, blood sugar levels rise.

To make matters worse, the two seem to feed on each other, according to Verma. People with diabetes experience changes in their body's reflexes that cause their throat muscles to relax more during sleep, a main cause of sleep apnea.

"Sleep apnea makes diabetes worse and diabetes increases the risk of sleep apnea," he said.

Similar Risk Factors

Both type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea share the same risk factors, the main one being obesity. People who are overweight or obese are much more likely to have diabetes and sleep apnea because the extra weight can lead to insulin resistance and the extra fat around the neck contributes to sleep apnea.

In addition, these shared risk factors are compounded with both disorders, increasing the chances for developing other serious complications. Being overweight or obese can lead to other adverse metabolic effects such as high blood pressure and so can sleep apnea. High blood pressure combined with diabetes dramatically increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.

"It's a very bad cycle," Verma said. "They feed on each other and can make health conditions much worse."

Anyone who thinks they could have sleep apnea should take Washington Hospital's quiz at The one-of-a-kind quiz was created by experts and can accurately assess your chances of having sleep apnea.

"Anyone with type 2 diabetes should be asking themselves if sleep apnea plays a role," Verma said. "If you have type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, we may be able to help you decrease your medications or possibly even get off them if we can successfully treat your sleep apnea."

To learn more about diabetes and sleep apnea, register for the seminar at (800) 963-7070. To find out about other diabetes education classes, call (510) 745-6556.

Diabetes Support Group

Success in managing diabetes has a lot to do with receiving and giving social support. For people who suffer from diabetes, Washington Hospital's Outpatient Diabetes Program offers a support group that allows people to have in-depth conversations about what's happening in their lives and share information about dealing with diabetes in a positive and caring environment. The support group meetings are held at 8 p.m. every month immediately following the hour-long Diabetes Matters lecture which begins at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month.
Family members and friends are also welcome. For more information about the support group or other classes and programs, call the Diabetes Services program at (510) 745-6556 or visit us on the web:

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