Sleep Apnea and Pre-Diabetes

‘Glucose metabolism’ is the term used to describe the body’s ability to break down food and turn it into usable energy. It is an important process in regulating blood sugar. Many individuals with pre-diabetes, which is the stage between ‘normal’ glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes, have poor glucose metabolism. These individuals are at high risk to transitioning into full type 2 diabetes, and thus identifying these individuals and intervening with lifestyle changes is critical. We have previously discussed that type 2 diabetes is exacerbated by untreated sleep apnea but this exacerbation is improved by treatment. Could individuals with pre-diabetes also be helped by sleep apnea treatment if they have not been treated in the past?

Recently, a group of researchers located in Chicago and in Montreal investigated this issue by comparing glucose metabolism (glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity) before and after sleep apnea treatment in pre-diabetic individuals and in healthy individuals. CPAP, the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, was prescribed to each individual, and nightly usage was monitored via an electronic chip in the machine.

After 2 weeks of CPAP treatment, results showed, first and foremost, that the CPAP was working. Those who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea prior to CPAP use were now well-treated. These individuals wore their CPAP for 8 hours per night, and only removed them for bathroom breaks. Additionally, all glucose measurements improved: glucose response was reduced and insulin sensitivity was improved. As a bonus, blood pressure was also reduced after 2 weeks.

Overall, this study reports great news for pre-diabetic individuals. If someone were to be borderline (close to being diabetic), CPAP treatment can help to regulate glucose metabolism. The author of the study (via ScienceDaily) says it best: “…our results should provide a strong incentive for anyone with sleep apnea, especially prediabetic individuals, to improve adherence to their treatment for cardio-metabolic risk reduction." In other words, get treated and stay treated!


Source: S. Pamidi, K. Wroblewski, M. Stepien, K. Sharif-Sidi, J. Kilkus, H. Whitmore, and E. Tasali "Eight Hours of Nightly Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Improves Glucose Metabolism in Patients with Prediabetes. A Randomized Controlled Trial", American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 192, No. 1 (2015), pp. 96-105.

Janna Mantua


Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.

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