We know that sleep apnea is linked to diabetes risk, including both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There are still questions about whether sleep apnea actually causes diabetes, but the risk seems to be independent of shared risk factors like obesity.
However, the most important question is: does treating sleep apnea reduce diabetes risk? Now a new study answers that question: yes! It shows that treating sleep apnea can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes down to normal. Unfortunately, the study isn’t all good news: it also highlights a major challenge in getting adequate sleep apnea treatment for people.
Assessing Type 2 Diabetes Risk for People with Sleep Apnea
This study looked at over 1200 people who were given sleep studies for sleep apnea from 2006 to 2013. During the follow-up period (patients were followed for a median of 7.3 years), 152 developed diabetes. They found that people with moderate sleep apnea were 2 times as likely to develop diabetes, and those with severe sleep apnea were 2.6 times more likely to develop diabetes.
Interestingly, this study didn’t show any interaction between obesity and sleep apnea.
Treatment Reduced Risk
Researchers also assessed the effectiveness of sleep apnea treatment. The treatment used in this study was CPAP, and researchers found that regular CPAP use basically eliminated the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. People who used their CPAP regularly were statistically indistinguishable from people who didn’t have sleep apnea. In fact, regular CPAP use cut the absolute risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than half, from 3.4 to 1.6 per 100 person-years.
This is in addition to previous studies showing that sleep apnea treatment can help people control diabetes once they develop it.
The Challenge of CPAP Treatment
Unfortunately, the news from the study is not all good. Despite the effectiveness of CPAP treatment, it is actually a failing treatment in this case, because only one-third of patients actually used their CPAP machine regularly. In other words, two-thirds of people who were diagnosed with sleep apnea remained at high risk despite the use of CPAP.
This is why oral appliance therapy is such an important option. If two-thirds of people who are treated with CPAP remain untreated, we need some way to try to reach this remainder. Oral appliance therapy is a more comfortable and convenient alternative to CPAP, and it’s been shown in other studies to be as effective as CPAP. The compliance rates for oral appliance therapy are very high–more than 90% meet the standard for regular use established for CPAP.
Are You Looking for Effective Sleep Apnea Treatment?
If you’ve been prescribed CPAP but find you just can’t use it, let us help. We can evaluate you for oral appliance therapy and design a comfortable, custom appliance for you. This can help you combat the risks of sleep apnea so you can enjoy better sleep, more rest, and fewer risks.