BACKGROUND: There is a high prevalence of unexplained and unexplored obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among patients with type 2 diabetes. The daytime symptoms of OSA include severe fatigue, cognitive problems, a decreased quality of life, and the reduced motivation to perform self-care. These symptoms impair the management of both diabetes and daily life. OSA may therefore have negative implications for diabetes self-management. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is used to treat OSA. This treatment improves sleep quality, insulin resistance, and glycemic control. Although the benefits of using CPAP as a treatment for OSA are clear, the noncompliance rate is high, and the evidence for the perceived effect that CPAP treatment has on patients with type 2 diabetes and OSA is poor.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to analyze the impacts that comorbid diabetes and OSA have on the daily lives of older adults and to investigate the perceived effect that CPAP treatment for OSA has on patients' diabetes self-management.
METHODS: A qualitative follow-up study that involved in-depth, semistructured dyad interviews with couples before and after CPAP treatment (N=22) was conducted. Patients were recruited from the Hilleroed Hospital in Denmark and were all diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, aged >18 years, and had an apnea-hypopnea index of ≥15. All interviews were coded and analyzed via thematic analysis.
RESULTS: The results showed that patients and their partners did not consider OSA to be a serious disorder, as they believed that OSA symptoms were similar to those of the process of aging. Patients experienced poor nocturnal sleep, took frequent daytime naps, exhibited reduced cognitive function, and had low levels of physical activity and a high-calorie diet. These factors negatively influenced their diabetes self-management. Despite the immediate benefit of CPAP treatment, most patients (11/12, 92%) faced technical challenges when using the CPAP device. Only the patients with severe OSA symptoms that affected their daily lives overcame the challenges of using the CPAP device and thereby improved their diabetes self-management. Patients with less severe symptoms rated CPAP-related challenges as more burdensome than their symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS: If used correctly, CPAP has the potential to significantly improve OSA, resulting in better sleep quality; improved physical activity; improved diet; and, in the end, better diabetes self-management. However, there are many barriers to undergoing CPAP treatment, and only few patients manage to overcome these barriers and comply with correct treatment.