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Sleep expert issues wake up call to women who snore-diabetes is a risk

New research shows that snoring doesn’t have to be loud to cause health problems – especially in women, according to sleep expert and Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, Colin Sullivan.

“Although women generally snore less and more softly than men, recent studies have shown they have a greater risk of some of the adverse effects of sleep apnoea and may not know they have type 2 diabetes,” he said.

Professor Sullivan’s comments come on the eve of an international meeting in Sydney of 20 experts in the fields of diabetes, obesity, sleep medicine, cardiovascular medicine and epidemiology.

The meeting has been convened by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to develop a consensus statement on type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea to improve management for people with diabetes and sleep disorders and assist in future research directions. It will be co-chaired by Senior Research Investigator in the Division of Medicine at Imperial College, London, and advisor to the Blair Government on Emergency Care and former President of IDF, Professor Sir George Alberti; and Director of the International Diabetes Institute and Professor of Diabetes at Monash University, Melbourne, Professor Paul Zimmet AO.

Sleep apnoea was previously thought to be mostly a disease of men but researchers are increasing their focus on women following studies that show snoring in women can accompany an almost silent struggle for breath during periods of apnoea when the airway closes and breathing stops.

People with sleep apnoea also tend to have risk factors for the metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, raised blood pressure and insulin resistance, which causes high levels of blood glucose and can lead to diabetes.

“Partners of men who snore, gasp and snort for breath during sleep are often kept awake at night,” Professor Sullivan said. “Their own disrupted sleep often prompts them to encourage their partner to have a sleep assessment.

“However, because women’s snoring is often much quieter and they tend to have partial or incomplete obstructions, their partner’s sleep may not be disturbed and the sleep disorder may go unchecked.

Kate McEvoy | alfa
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