According to a new study, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) episodes occurring during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is significantly associated with type 2 diabetes.
Principle investigator Kamran Mahmood, MD, MPH, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that the significant association of REM-related OSA and type 2 diabetes was surprising.
"We believe that REM-related OSA is a marker of early OSA, especially in women and patients younger than 55 years," said Mahmood.
"Generally, OSA is worse in REM sleep compared to non-REM sleep because of neurologically mediated impairment of skeletal muscles of upper airway and ventilation. This may be the reason for closer association of REM-related OSA and type 2 diabetes," Mahmood added.
Results indicated that the adjusted odds ratio for type 2 diabetes was 2.0 times higher in patients with REM-related OSA, defined as having an REM apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 10 or more breathing pauses per hour of REM sleep.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 30.1 percent in participants with OSA and 18.6 percent in those without OSA; however, the overall association between OSA and diabetes became non-significant after controlling for covariates such as body mass index (BMI), age, race and gender.
Middle-aged participants with OSA had an adjusted odds ratio for type 2 diabetes that was 2.8 times higher than younger or middle-aged people without OSA.
Hispanics and older patients referred for OSA evaluation had a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes; this relationship was not affected by OSA.
The study gathered data from 1,008 consecutive patients who were evaluated for OSA by comprehensive polysomnography at the University of Illinois at Chicago; 66.9 percent were African American, 16.9 percent were Caucasian, 14.9 percent were Hispanic and 1.3 percent were Asian.
OSA was defined as an AHI of five or more breathing pauses per hour of sleep and was diagnosed in 745 individuals (74 percent); the 263 adults (26 percent) who did not have OSA served as the control. Men comprised 52.8 percent of the OSA group but only 28.5 percent of the control group.
The study was published in the June 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.