Four members of the diabetes support group who were living with sleep apnea, shared their experiences. Here is what patients say about sleep apnea:
Loud snoring and choking
Jaap: I am 50 yrs old and have lived with diabetes for 5 years. I have struggled with my weight all my life. I come from a family of snorers and have snored all my life too. My wife noticed that I would stop breathing for a few seconds and would then wake up choking. I had no memory of these events in the morning. My fasting blood sugar would often be greater than 10 mmol/L, despite taking 3 different medications. I had a sleep study which showed that I stopped breathing 50 times an hour, resulting in low oxygen levels to my brain. Once I started using CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure apparatus), according to my wife I sleep without snoring or choking spells. I am waking up refreshed too. My fasting blood sugar is consistently below 7 mmol/L without taking any additional medication.
Daytime sleepiness and sugar cravings
Ashwin: My major problem was daytime fatigue. I was waking up as if I had never slept and was tired throughout the day. I would fall asleep in meetings. One afternoon, I even skidded off the road while driving to Hamilton. I was eating more sweet things to boost my energy, but it would only further raise my blood sugar. I suffered for 6 years and then a friend suggested my problem might be sleep apnea. It was. I am thankful I started using my CPAP; I feel more energetic and I am able to follow the exercise routine of walking for 30 minutes a day 5 times a week, and I am doing weights twice a week. I have lost 15 pounds! I feel it is a great start. Even my A1C has fallen from 7.5% to 6.8% by using CPAP and, of course, exercising. I no longer crave sweets to boost my energy.
Nightly urination and narrow jaw structure
Rhoda: I had similar symptoms as Ashwin described for years. I live alone and don’t think I snore, but I woke up frequently to urinate. I thought it was from my diabetes. My doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my bladder or kidneys and my diabetes was not the cause of my problem. When I was visiting my sister in Oregon, I found out she was using a mouth appliance at night for a jaw problem which was causing poor sleep, resulting in sleep deprivation. Learning that the problem may be hereditary, I got a referral to a sleep dentist who confirmed a “jaw anomaly” and following a sleep study, fitted me with an oral appliance. Remarkably all my urinary problems have cleared up, and I have the energy to resume my exercise routine.
Inactivity, body weight and high blood pressure
Barbara: My problem is what my doctor called “borderline diabetes” and metabolic syndrome. 6 years ago I was advised “to watch what I ate and exercise”. I did not really understand the nitty-gritty of exercise and my doctor could not be more specific. When I went to a gym, I saw many skinny people doing all kinds of exercises, sweating away. I was 25 Kg overweight and felt embarrassed being there.
I was never athletically inclined, and I didn’t pursue exercising any further, as I knew I couldn’t do that. I had high blood pressure, requiring 3 different medications. I also took a statin for high cholesterol. One day when I was walking up a hill with my dog, I developed unusual shortness of breath. Following a stress test and an angiogram, I was diagnosed with a blocked coronary artery and needed two stents. I was advised at cardiac rehab to have a sleep study, which showed severe sleep apnea. I began using the CPAP. After 3 months, remarkably my hypertension is under excellent control. My cardiologist is considering stopping my diuretic for hypertension. I am full of energy and I have set a goal to lose 4 Kg of weight over the next 6 months.
What does the International Diabetes Federation say?
Find out here about the consensus statement on the global issue of Sleep Apnea and Diabetes.