Sleep apnea can disrupt blood sugar levels

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Sleep apnea can worsen blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes by disrupting the deepest stage of sleep, a new study suggests.

The findings provide another good reason for people with sleep apnea to wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask that helps assure uninterrupted breathing, the standard treatment for the condition, throughout the night.

It is well known that sleep apnea, which causes breathing pauses and dangerous drops in oxygen during sleep, sharply raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes. More severe cases of sleep apnea are generally associated with poorer blood sugar control in diabetics.

While breathing pauses can occur throughout the night in apnea patients, the new study found that episodes that occurred during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep had the most detrimental effects on long-term blood sugar control.

Most REM sleep occurs in the early morning hours before waking. But research shows that many patients remove their CPAP masks in the middle of the night as it can feel uncomfortable, said Dr Babak Mokhlesi, an author of the new study and the director of the sleep disorders center at the University of Chicago.

As a result, their apnea is more likely to go untreated during REM sleep, a time that may be particularly important for anyone with diabetes, Dr Moklhesi said.

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