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Sleep apnoea increases diabetes risk

Treating a patient's obstructive sleep apnoea could also protect them from type 2 diabetes, say scientists. 

Research shows that a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes more than doubles if they have obstructive sleep apnoea.

For six years scientists analysed the sleeping patterns of 593 patients at the VA Connecticut Health Care System in the USA.

Patients diagnosed with sleep apnoea had more than two and a half times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those without a nighttime breathing disorder. 

The more severe a patient's sleep apnoea, the greater their risk of developing diabetes.

Lead researcher Nader Bostros from Yale University School of Medicine, Connecticut, USA, suggests that sleep apnoea may activate the body's "flight or fight" response.

This response can trigger the production of high levels of the hormone cortisol, which contributes to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. If left untreated, these conditions can then lead to the development of diabetes.

"The impact of diabetes on public health is great," says Bostros. "New approaches are needed to better understand the risk factors for diabetes in order to develop additional preventative strategies.

"Understanding the link between sleep-disordered breathing and diabetes may represent one such approach."

Yale University