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Sleep Apnea Treatment Tied to Lowering Glucose Levels

Update Date: May 20, 2013 09:41 AM EDT
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Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that involves disrupted sleep due to abnormal breathing patterns. Treatment for this disorder is key in promoting longer sleep, which would then rejuvenate the body. In a new study, researchers found that not only could sleep apnea treatment help improve sleep, it might also be able to help patients with prediabetes control their glucose levels.  Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood sugar levels are higher than average, but have not quite made the cut off point to be considered type II diabetes. This new study suggests that for sleep apnea patients, at least, there is another way to prevent diabetes.

"Sleep apnea...is known to be associated with abnormalities in glucose metabolism, but whether treatment of sleep apnea has any beneficial effects on glucose metabolism is still under investigation" said lead author Sushmita Pamidi, MD. Pamidi is from the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. "We have studied patients with sleep apnea and prediabetes. We found that optimal treatment of sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for two weeks led to significant improvements in glucose levels following an oral glucose challenge without affecting insulin secretion, suggesting an improvement in insulin sensitivity."

The research team recruited 39 adults who have sleep apnea and prediabetes. Before the experiment began, the participants had to take an oral glucose tolerance test, which allowed the researchers to record how the participants' bodies were able to use glucose. They were all randomly assigned to two different groups, one receiving CPAP treatment and the other receiving a placebo. The volunteers had to sleep at the lab for a total of two weeks so that researchers could measure their glucose tolerance, insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity, which are all known markers for type II diabetes. The researchers also recorded quality and quantity of sleep, weight, blood pressure levels, energy expenditure, heart rate and hormone levels.

The researchers found that CPAP treatment, which is a machine designed to help deliver air via a breathing tube to combat the breathing disturbances in patients with sleep apnea, helped improve glucose levels. The researchers believe that their findings are indicative of a new method of preventing type II diabetes.

The findings were presented in the American Thoracic Society.

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