Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness that is increasing in epidemic proportions worldwide. Major factors contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes include obesity and poor lifestyle habits (e.g., excess dietary intake and limited physical activity). Despite the proven efficacy of lifestyle interventions and the use of multiple pharmacological agents, the economic and public health burden of type 2 diabetes remains substantial. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a treatable sleep disorder that is pervasive among overweight and obese adults, who represent about two thirds of the U.S. population today. An ever-growing number of studies have shown that OSA is associated with insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes, independent of obesity. Evidence from animal and human models that mimic OSA provides potential mechanisms for how OSA may alter glucose metabolism. Up to 83% of patients with type 2 diabetes suffer from unrecognized OSA and increasing severity of OSA is associated with worsening glucose control. However, it is still unclear whether OSA may lead to the development of diabetes over time. More data from large-scale longitudinal studies with rigorous assessments of diabetes and OSA are needed. In addition, there is still controversy whether continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of OSA improves glucose metabolism. Large-scale randomized-controlled trials of CPAP treatment of OSA with well-validated assessments of insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance are needed. These studies may reveal that OSA represents a novel, modifiable risk factor for the development of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Keywords: CPAP; cardiovascular; diabetes; glucose; insulin; sleep apnea.