Short Sleep During Pregnancy Linked to Gestational Diabetes

January 11th 2017
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Good sleep habits could reduce the likelihood of developing hyperglycemia and gestational diabetes.

Sleeping for a short period of time is associated with the increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, according to a study published in the journalSLEEP.

Gestational diabetes is one of the most common health issues during pregnancy. If high glucose levels go unmanaged in pregnancy, it can result in complications that can affect both mother and baby, including pre-term labor, obstructed labor, birth trauma, high blood pressure in mothers, and increased risk of mother and fetal deaths.

In a 2015 report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Singapore was found to have the second-highest proportion of patients with diabetes among developed nations. Diabetes remains an epidemic worldwide, and in order to manage and reduce the burden of diabetes, scientists have been working to identify factors that contribute to unhealthy blood glucose levels.

Studies have shown that sleep is a factor affecting glucose metabolism, and some research has even indicated that short sleep as a risk factor of type 2 diabetes. However, there have been few studies that have examined the relationship between gestational diabetes and sleep, particularly in the Asian population, which is an increasing issue.

For the study, investigators wanted to determine if short sleep was associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes. The investigators analyzed the sleep and glucose levels of individuals who participated in the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Health Outcomes (GUSTO) study.

A sleep questionnaire was completed by 686 women who had their glucose levels measured with an oral glucose tolerance test at 26 and 28 weeks of gestation, according to the study.

The results of the study showed that 131 of the 686 participants were diagnosed with gestationaldiabetes.

To determine whether exposure to short sleep was associated with greater odds of having gestational diabetes, the investigators ran statistical analyses. Short sleep was defined as less than 6 hours per night.

After adjusting for factors including age, body mass index, and history of gestational diabetes, the results showed that short sleep was associated with an increased risk of the disease. The frequency of gestational diabetes was highest in women who reported sleeping less than 6 hours per night (27.3%) and was lowest in women who reported sleeping between 7 to 8 hours per night (16.8%).

“Our results raise the possibility that good sleep habits could reduce the likelihood of developing hyperglycemia and [gestational diabetes],” said senior author Joshua Gooley. “With the recently launched ‘War on Diabetes’ in Singapore, the importance of healthy sleep habits should be emphasized to doctors and patients, in addition to initiatives that are geared toward improving other lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise.”

According to the authors, the results are consistent with findings showing the association between short sleep and type 2 diabetes in nonpregnant populations. Furthermore, they are also consistent with small studies done in Caucasian and African American pregnant women.

“Our study provides a better understanding of how we may be able to counter a potentially serious condition for pregnant women and her child,” said investigator Dr Cai Shirong. “Additional studies are needed to assess the contribution of other modifiable lifestyle factors to [gestational diabetes] risk.”

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