Life is not easy. Especially when you are in a family of invisible illnesses and disabilities. It can be serious, funny and downright hard! But we make it. Just like everyone else. We just do it in a different style.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Link - Important!

I try to stay objective when I put articles in here. I realize and hope others know that you must look at your individual situation and always consult your doctor. But, in this case, this article is like looking at my sister and it is hard to maintain objectivity.

My sis, at 33, has been obese most of her life. She also has had sleep issues since she was a child. When she has the series of small strokes several months ago, it was a major shock to all of us. But when the diagnosis of diabetes came back, it mirrored our own mother.

What NEVER was discussed was the possibility that diabetes and sleep apnea were related. In our personal family history, I believe it is so. Both my mother and my sister snored terribly. I grew up with hearing the pauses in the breathing. I was so accustomed to them, that I didn't even think anything of it when my own son did so in his crib.

To fastforward so many years, it is difficult to possibly believe that maybe my mother needed a CPAP machine. She died very young at 62, after suffering with end-stage renal failure for nearly 10 years, the final complication in her nearly 30 year battle with diabetes. A battle she never seemed to be winning, only slowly and painfully losing.

My sister has been diagnosed with moderate-to-severe sleep apnea and my son has moderate sleep apnea. Both struggle with obesity and for now, my son's sugar levels are good, though his autonomic nervous system is shot.

My sister recently did a test of her sugar before she went to bed (a reading of 97) and when she awakened (a higher and not good reading of 130). With no food in between, her sugar level could only be a hormonal response to lack of oxygen.

Sorry this intro is long, but I am adamant about this.

Sleep apnea is a poorly controlled problem that is contributing to one of our society's biggest health crises: diabetes. It is destroying lives and ruining childhoods. Please do not take it lightly at all if you do not sleep well. Whether it is sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder, PLEASE seek help from a qualified sleep professional, preferably one from a sleep center in a hospital.


Sleep apnea and diabetes could be linked

By Barbara Quinn
The Monterey County Herald
Page 18 2008-10-19 01:04 AM
Associated Press

We hadn't done this before. Two of us - one from our hospital's sleep center and the other from our diabetes program - were both listening intently to a teleconference on sleep apnea and diabetes. What does one have to do with the other? Perhaps plenty, according to research in both fields.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is characterized by disruptions in sleep caused by disordered breathing, explained sleep medicine physician Dr. Angela Hospenthal from the University of Texas Science Center. Symptoms include: "heroic snoring" (the kind that can be heard through closed doors), waking up choking or gasping or with a dry mouth or sore throat, and being excessively tired during the day.

How do you know you have it? Spend the night in a sleep lab hooked up to electrodes to measure how you breathe (or not). Lots of physiological things happen while sleep disordered people snore, said Hospenthal. Oxygen and blood flow are reduced, blood pressures rises and heart irregularities occur. All in all, it's not a very restful sleep. And during waking hours, people with sleep apnea have more trouble concentrating and remembering things. My sleep center companion nodded knowingly.

And what does that have to do with diabetes? Sleep apnea and diabetes are "linked" in several ways, we were told:

Central obesity - excess weight around the middle - is a risk for diabetes as well as sleep apnea. "Fat cells in the upper body (apple shapes) have different health effects than fat cells in the hips and thighs," Hospenthal noted.

Insulin resistance syndrome - a condition common in people with diabetes - is also commonly found in people with OSA. When we don't breathe deeply enough, it increases hormones in the body that raise blood sugar levels and impair the body's ability to process excess blood sugar. We both took a deep breath.

Neuropathy - nerve damage common in people with diabetes - is also prevalent in people with obstructive sleep apnea, although we don't exactly know why.

So, sleep apnea may lead to diabetes and diabetes may lead to sleep apnea. And interestingly, the treatment of one condition may improve the outcome of the other. For example, one effective treatment for sleep apnea - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP - may also help control blood sugar levels by helping get more oxygen to the body.
These strategies may help prevent or treat sleep problems and/or diabetes:

Lose excess weight. Even a modest weight loss of 10 percent to 15 percent can decrease the risk for sleep disorders as well as diabetes.

Avoid sleeping on your back. It blocks air flow which aggravates sleep disorders and may disrupt the body?s ability to process blood sugar.

Go to bed! Sleep deprivation is bad for your heart, your mind, your blood pressure and your blood sugars. Most adults require 6 hours to 7 hours of sleep a night.

Avoid alcohol, narcotics or other medications at bedtime that may disrupt your sleep.

My teleconference companion and I exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

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