Sleep is one important cornerstone of health. During sleep, our body performs vital tasks, including regulating our metabolism. When a condition like sleep apnea disrupts sleep, it can disrupt the body’s functions, either causing or worsening systemic health conditions, such as diabetes.
According to a new study, sleep apnea is associated with higher blood sugar levels in black Americans. As a result of these findings, researchers suggest that sleep apnea treatment could help black Americans manage their diabetes. To achieve positive results, researchers recommend more screening. We also note that if we want to manage sleep apnea better, people need to be informed of their treatment options.
A Large Cardiovascular Study
The 789 subjects for this study were enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest study of cardiovascular disease in black Americans. The average age of subjects was 63, and the population was 74% women.
About one quarter of the study population had diabetes, and about a fifth were taking medication to help control their blood sugar levels. Patients wore wrist actigraphy sensors and were tested for sleep apnea using a home test. The results showed 57% of the population had sleep apnea. None were being treated for their sleep apnea. All subjects had their fasting blood sugar levels taken as well as their hemoglobin A1c levels (HbA1c). HbA1c is a good measure of long-term (2-3 months) blood sugar control.
Elevated Blood Sugar Associated with Sleep Apnea
According to the results, patients with sleep apnea had higher levels of fasting blood sugar as well as HbA1c. This indicates that the subjects with sleep apnea had a harder time maintaining lower blood sugar levels. The levels were 14% higher for individuals with sleep apnea than those without. Elevated blood sugar was linked to both low oxygen levels during sleep as well as sleep fragmentation (recorded by actigraphy).
Although researchers could not definitively prove a causal relationship between sleep apnea and blood sugar levels, they could show that blood sugar levels went up as sleep apnea and disrupted sleep increased. This led them to conclude that the relationship might be causal.
Despite not establishing a causal relationship, researchers still recommended increased screening and treatment for sleep apnea among black Americans. With 57% of the study population having sleep apnea and none being treated, it’s a graphic example of just how many people with previously undiagnosed sleep apnea may be suffering as a result of the condition.
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, it’s critical to talk to your doctor. And if you have sleep apnea, it’s critical that you get a sleep apnea treatment that you will use.
Unfortunately, many doctors don’t realize that there are multiple approaches to treating sleep apnea and prescribe CPAP without giving information about alternatives.