Insufficient Sleep May Lead to Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women who slept less than 6.5 hours per night were nearly 3 times as likely to develop gestational diabetes.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for physical, mental, and emotional health, and sleep deprivation is known to lead to chronic diseases and can affect cognition. Sufficient sleep is especially important for pregnant women and children who are still growing.

A new study published by Sleep Medicine Reviews suggests that a lack of sleep among pregnant women may be a leading risk factor for gestational diabetes.

“Links between reduced sleep duration and increased diabetes risk have been reported in several large studies in non-pregnant populations,” said lead author Sirimon Reutrakul, MD.

Previous studies have shown a link between short sleep and high blood sugar levels in pregnant women, but the small sample sizes called for additional analysis, according to the authors of the current study.

“More information is needed to determine if short sleep duration is a contributing factor to the development of gestational diabetes,” Dr Reutrakul said.

Gestational diabetes affects up to 7% of all pregnancies in the United States and typically occurs during the second or third trimesters, which is why providers recommend pregnant women receive a blood sugar screening test between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. High blood glucose levels suggest a patient may have an increased risk of gestational diabetes and should receive additional testing, according to the study authors.

While the condition is typically asymptomatic and blood glucose levels return to normal after birth, babies tend to have higher birth weights and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Women with gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

In the new study, the authors conducted a meta-analysis including 17,308 pregnant women. Participants were screened for gestational diabetes and sleep duration was assessed through self-reported questionnaires or an accelerometer.

The authors also collected patient data from 287 women in 4 additional studies, which included objective measurements of blood sugar and sleep duration.

The investigators found that average sleep duration of less than 6 hours was linked to a 1.7 times greater risk of gestational diabetes, according to the study.

Among patients whose sleep was measured objectively, the authors found that patients who slept less than 6.25 hours per night were 2.84 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes compared with those who slept more hours per night, according to the study. These women were also more likely to have higher blood sugar levels, as indicated by screening tests.

“This is the first meta-analysis to find that both self-reported and objectively measured short sleep duration was associated with elevated blood sugar levels in pregnancy as well as an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes,” Dr Reutrakul said. “More research is needed to confirm our findings, and to determine whether sleep extension may be beneficial in lowering the risk of gestational diabetes.”