A recent study presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society shows that treating sleep apnea with a CPAP machine may have more benefits than just minimizing daytime sleepiness. The study’s findings show that for people with prediabetes, CPAP treatment could lower blood sugar levels.

“We have studied patients with sleep apnea and prediabetes, a condition defined as higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be considered diabetes,” study researcher Dr. Sushmita Pamidi, M.D., of the Department of Medicine at McGill University, said in a statement. “We found that optimal treatment of sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for two weeks led to significant improvements in glucose levels following an oral glucose challenge without affecting insulin secretion, suggesting an improvement in insulin sensitivity.”

While the study was small, the 39 people who had both sleep apnea and prediabetes were split, some receiving CPAP treatment and another group a placebo. The group with the CPAP treatment had significantly better glucose metabolism after the two weeks were complete. To test this, the group had an oral glucose tolerance test done at the beginning of the study, and again after two weeks of CPAP use.

The findings add “to the current literature by demonstrating that CPAP treatment of sleep apnea in patients at risk for developing diabetes may lower this risk [of Type 2 diabetes], and an assessment for sleep apnea may be appropriate as part of the clinical evaluation of patients with prediabetes,” Pamidi concluded.

Past studies have shown the link between sleep apnea and metabolic disorders, including Type 2 diabetes. A study presented at the same meeting last year showed that the risk for Type 2 diabetes goes up significantly when a person has moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Ramie Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT