Hagerstown study looks at link between sleep disruption, glucose metabolism

February 04, 2013|By Crystal Schelle

Doctors and researchers at George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research and Prevention in Hagerstown as well as Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore are seeing if glucose metabolism might be affected by the disruption of sleep that sleep apnea causes. Their work is part of the SOMNOS Study of sleep apnea and metabolism.

“There are a lot of bad things that happen in your body when you have sleep apnea and that affects your metabolism,” said Melissa Minotti, research program coordinator. “And if left alone, they believe that could turn into insulin resistance, sort of the next step to diabetes.”

Punjabi is the principal investigator for both the Hagerstown and Baltimore studies, which have been conducted for the last year. He said the goal of the study “is to determine whether treatment of sleep apnea in individuals who have not previously been treated improves how patients handle glucose.”

Specifically, he said, researchers are looking at the metabolism of glucose in the body. “As we now know, that if you have sleep apnea and it’s untreated, there is a propensity for developing insulin resistance, developing glucose intolerance and maybe type 2 diabetes,” he said.

Punjabi noted that there have been numerous studies over the last decade that sleep apnea, may, in fact, be related to these conditions.

“And the question we are asking now is if you treat sleep apnea, can we potentially decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes,” he said.
“When all of us sleep there is a decrease in muscle tone particularly in the throat region. When that muscle tone decreases there is a propensity for the throat to close up, and in some patients, it completely collapses,” he explained. “So the fundamental characteristic of sleep apnea is a disorder with breathing pauses during sleep. Now when breathing stops during sleep or decreases during sleep, there is
a tendency to develop hypoxemia or decrease of oxygen levels in the blood.” This decrease of oxygen can lead to serious health concerns, he said.

“It is potentially related to an increase risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke,” Punjabi said. “Sleep apnea also leads to destruction of sleep …. So this is a common condition that often goes unnoticed and it’s often spouses or bed partners who complain (about) the loud snoring or breathe pauses, the snorting or gasping during sleep that really bring these effected patients to our clinical setting.”
“The risk factors in women include being post-menopausal, being overweight and age,” he said. “Similar risk factors exist in men, men that are overweight and obese, that are older, that have the typical symptoms of snoring, stopping breathing episodes, are the most at risk for having sleep apnea.”

Minotti said the study designers estimate that
at the end of the study, they would have seen between 200 and 250 participants.

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