Treating sleep apnea doesn't just minimize daytime fatigue and disrupted sleep -- it could also help blood sugar levels, according to a small new study.
The findings, presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society, show that sleep apnea treatment is linked with better blood sugar levels among people with prediabetes.
"We have studied patients with sleep apnea and prediabetes, a condition defined as higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be considered diabetes," study researcher Dr. Sushmita Pamidi, M.D., of the Department of Medicine at McGill University, said in a statement. "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 study included 39 people who had both prediabetes and sleep apnea. Researchers had them do two weeks of either CPAP treatment (considered the best treatment for sleep apnea) or a placebo. At the start and end of the study, researchers tested the body's ability to use glucose with an oral glucose tolerance test.
Researchers found that the participants who underwent the CPAP treatment had better glucose metabolism. The findings add "to the current literature by demonstrating that CPAP treatment of sleep apnea in patients at risk for developing diabetes may lower this risk [of Type 2 diabetes], and an assessment for sleep apnea may be appropriate as part of the clinical evaluation of patients with prediabetes," Pamidi said in the statement.
Indeed, past research has shown strong associations between having sleep apnea and having a higher risk for metabolic disorders, including diabetes. Specifically, a study presented at the same meeting last year showed that Type 2 diabetes risk goes up when a person has moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea.