(RxWiki News) Treating sleep apnea can help you breathe easier at night. Now, it appears that one apnea treatment also may help control pre-diabetes.
Many people experience sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Struggling for air at night can stimulate a stress response in the body, releasing hormones that can lead to higher blood sugar levels.
Scientists have recently discovered in a small study that treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can improve blood sugar levels.
"Treat sleep apnea now, call a doctor."
Sushmita Pamidi, MD, in the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and his fellow scientists conducted the research on 39 adults with sleep apnea and prediabetes.
For the study, participants were randomly assigned a placebo tablet (fake pill) or CPAP treatment. Those who had CPAP slept each night in the laboratory to ensure that they received proper CPAP therapy.
This therapy requires wearing a mask or other device that fits over the nose and mouth. The mask is connected to a tube that is attached to a machine that delivers mild air pressure to keep the body’s airways open.
CPAP has proven to be an optimal approach for treating sleep apnea. Many people who use CPAP report feeling better once they begin treatment, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They feel more attentive and better able to work during the day.
Before and after the two-week treatment period, study participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test, a test that measures body's ability to use glucose.
Dr. Pamidi said that the CPAP group had significant improvements in glucose levels without affecting insulin secretion, “suggesting an improvement in insulin sensitivity."
Low insulin sensitivity, a measure of how sensitive a person's body is to the effects of insulin, is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.
"Effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is known to have a positive impact on a number of important health outcomes and, in our study, we observed beneficial effects on glucose metabolism," said principal investigator Esra Tasali, MD, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago.
This "proof of concept" study may provide information for designing larger multicenter clinical trials that will determine whether CPAP treatment could be a first line intervention to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes, according to the authors.
“Our study adds to the current literature by demonstrating that CPAP treatment of sleep apnea in patients at risk for developing diabetes may lower this risk, and an assessment for sleep apnea may be appropriate as part of the clinical evaluation of patients with prediabetes," said Dr. Pamidi.
The study was presented in May at the American Thoracic Society International Conference 2013 in Philadelphia.