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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Study Links Severe Sleep Apnea to Higher Blood Glucose Levels in African Americans

An African American man lays asleep in bed.

Associations of sleep apnea and high blood glucose levels were stronger among black men than black women, an NIH-funded study found.

African Americans with severe sleep apnea and other adverse sleep patterns are much more likely to have high blood glucose levels—a risk factor for diabetes—than those without these patterns, according to a new study funded in part by NHLBI.

The findings suggest that better sleep habits may lead to better blood glucose control and prove beneficial for type 2 diabetes prevention and diabetes management in African Americans, who are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than other groups. They also point to the importance of screening for sleep apnea to help fight the potential for uncontrolled blood sugar in this high-risk group, the researchers said.

Previous studies have linked disturbed sleep patterns, including sleep apnea, to increased blood glucose levels in white and Asian populations. But this new study is one of the few to use objective measurements to link these disturbed sleep patterns to increased blood glucose levels in black men and women, the researchers said. Their findings appeared online on Apr. 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“The study underscores the importance of developing interventions to promote regular sleep schedules, particularly in those with diabetes,” said Dr. Yuichiro Yano, the lead study author and a researcher in the department of family medicine and community health at Duke University. “It also reaffirms the need to improve the screening and diagnosis of sleep apnea, both in African Americans and other groups.”

Dr. Michael Twery, director of NHLBI’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, added that the study highlights important associations between untreated sleep apnea and poorly regulated blood sugar. “It also adds to growing evidence that protecting our sleep, like diet and exercise, may help reduce the risk of diabetes and the related risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In addition to studying sleep apnea, the researchers found that participants who experienced other types of disturbed sleep—including sleep fragmentation and sleep duration variability—were also more likely to have increased measures of blood glucose. 

Yano and his team also found that associations of sleep apnea and high blood glucose levels were stronger among black men than black women.  

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
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Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
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Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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