Sleep: zzzzzz…. are you sleeping well?

sleep and diabetesGuest Post from David Mapletoft, Diabetes Educator

What is Sleep Apnoea?

People with sleep apnoea stop breathing while they are sleeping. This causes them to wake up gasping and can happen as many as hundreds of times per night, although sleep apnoea sufferers do not usually remember waking up.

If you have sleep apnoea, your health may be in danger. People with sleep apnoea have higher chances of traffic accidents and are more likely to develop serious health problems. Sleep apnoea is a known cause of high blood pressure and can lead to to obesity.

Sleep apnoea can also cause relationship problems and depression.

Do I have sleep apnoea?

Usually, people with sleep apnoea find out because a spouse or bed partner noticed them snore or stop breathing during sleep. Other common signs and symptoms include:

  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Frequent snoring
  • Stopping breathing during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight problems

Sleep apnoea is most common among men, people who are overweight and the middle-aged. However, research shows that children and post-menopausal women may also be at risk.

What is treatment like?

There are several treatments available for OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea), however most doctors recommend positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. PAP therapy is safe, effective and non-invasive. It does not require drugs or surgery.

Alternatives including dental appliances may have some benefits for people with mild OSA. There are invasive surgeries available, however, they have variable success rates, and surgery always has a risk of short and long-term complications.

Of the available treatment options, PAP therapy is the safest and most effective. People on PAP therapy have reduced health risks and more energy to do the things they want to do.

Health risks

Sleep apnoea can be life threatening. People with sleep apnoea have higher chances of serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and obesity.

Treating sleep apnoea can improve these problems, as well as a person’s overall quality of life. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve glucose control and increase energy throughout the day in people with diabetes.

The message is simple—if you have sleep apnoea, you need to get treated!


People with sleep apnoea have higher chances of developing insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnoea is very common in patients that suffer from diabetes. Approximately 60% of Type 2 diabetes patients have sleep apnoea.

Diabetes patients who receive treatment for their sleep apnoea often have an immediate improvement in their diabetic condition.

If you have diabetes and think you might have sleep apnoea, you need to find out. Treating sleep apnoea can help you control your blood sugar levels and may lower your chances of complications, like heart disease.

High blood pressure

The (American)National Institute of Health lists sleep apnoea as a cause of high blood pressure.

Studies show that about 30% of all people with high blood pressure have sleep apnoea. That number increases to 80% for people taking three or more medications to control their blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure and sleep apnoea, starting treatment may help you lower your levels significantly and improve your heart health.

Heart disease

Untreated sleep apnoea strains the heart and may cause it not to work properly.

Left untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to heart disease and heart failure.

People with sleep apnoea can lower their chances of developing these problems by getting treated. Sleep apnoea treatment can people help control their blood pressure and improve their heart health.


Sleep apnoea can increase a person’s chances of stroke. In fact, studies show that more than 60% of patients who have had a stroke also have sleep apnoea. Stroke patients with untreated sleep apnoea may have a harder time recovering after a stroke than others do.

Recovering from a stroke takes much energy and motivation, but the sleepiness that comes from sleep apnoea can make it difficult for a person to follow rehabilitation programs, causing poor recovery.

Stroke patients with untreated sleep apnoea have higher chances of death than patients who receive treatment.


About 40% of obese people have sleep apnoea. Overweight people should be particularly concerned because sleep apnoea may make weight loss more difficult.

The sleepiness that comes from sleep apnoea may cause people to overeat, sleep more, and exercise less. Some people, as a matter of habit, will eat to “wake up” when they feel drowsy during the day.  That in turn can cause them to gain more weight, which may make their sleep apnoea even worse.

Being treated for sleep apnoea can help obese people gain the energy to exercise more and lose weight.


This short quiz is designed to help you to recognize possible sleep apnoea so that you can realise there can be relief for your symptoms.

While awake

  • Do you wake up in the morning tired and foggy, not ready to face the day?
  • Do you have headaches in the morning?
  • Are you very sleepy during the day?
  • Do you fall asleep easily during the day?
  • Do you have difficulty concentrating, being productive, and completing tasks at work?
  • Do you carry out routine tasks in a daze?
  • Have you ever arrived home in your car but couldn’t remember the trip from work?

Adjustment and emotional issues

  • Are you having serious relationship problems at home, with friends and relatives, or at work?
  • Are you afraid that you may be out of touch with the real world, unable to think clearly, losing your memory, or emotionally ill?
  • Do your friends tell you that you’re not like yourself?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Are you irritable and angry, especially first thing in the morning?

Medical, physical condition, and lifestyle

  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have pains in your bones and joints?
  • Do you have trouble breathing through your nose?
  • Do you often have a drink of alcohol before going to bed?
  • If you are a man, is your collar size 17 inches (42 centimetres) or larger?

During sleep and in the bedroom

  • Do you snore loudly each night?
  • Do you have frequent pauses in breathing while you sleep (you stop breathing for ten seconds or longer)?
  • Are you restless during sleep, tossing and turning from one side to another?
  • Does your posture during sleep seem unusual? (Do you sleep sitting up or propped up by pillows?)
  • Do you have insomnia? (Waking up frequently and without a reason)
  • Do you have to get up to urinate several times during the night?
  • Have you wet your bed?
  • Have you fallen from bed?

What is your score?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have sleep apnoea.

However, if you answered “yes” to any of the following especially important four questions, this strongly suggests that sleep apnoea is the problem.

  • Are you very sleepy during the day?
  • Do you fall asleep easily during the day?
  • Do you snore loudly each night?
  • Do you have frequent pauses in breathing while you sleep (you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer)?

Talk to your doctor today. More on sleep and diabetes HERE

Bon nuit / good night

Kind Regards,

David, Diabetes Educator 



  1. Leigh barr on March 22, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Hi I have not bolused in pump today and have no carb what will sugar do overnight i am a type 1

    • Helen-Edwards on April 1, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Hi Leigh just picked this up – we are not a crisis support service so it is always best to contact your doctor or attend your local emergency department in these kinds of situations. 🙂 How did you go? If you have a steady basal rate in your pump and do not eat any carbs it is possible that your levels would have stayed steady, but as they can be affected by so many things and pump rates are not always perfectly matched to your body’s changing needs it is impossible for us to advise on that.

  2. Leigh barr on March 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Please answer back

  3. Viv on March 31, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I was able to do a sleep study at home which was good, not having to try and sleep in a strange bed! I went along to the clinic late in the afternoon and was wired up into the recorders and taught how to connect everything when I went to bed later that night. All went well and the next day I was able to remove all of the wires and recorders and begin my usual morning routine, then I went along to have the data analysed by a professional sleep specialist. A couple of days later I received the results – I was having up to 84 apnoea events every hour! That means more than once every minute I stopped breathing. So, I then trialled c-pap machines and the various masks available for 6 weeks after which time I decided the nasal pillows suited me best and now, 3 months down the track, my apnoea events are down to less than 3 per hour and I am actually sleeping for up to 5 hours straight at night, something I don’t remember doing for a very very long time. I love my c-pap machine and feel so much more alert during the day. It’s great to not fall asleep everytime I sit down! I would recommend it to anyone who is suffering extreme tiredness, it will change your life…

    • helwild on March 31, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Great story, Viv. Thanks, very informative.