Pregnancy

Lack of sleep associated with gestational diabetes among Asian women

by Barbara Hewitt on January 11, 2017

A new study has found a link between insufficient sleep during pregnancy and gestational diabetes among Asian women.

The research carried out by teams from medical schools in Singapore is described as the first study to examine the relationship between sleep duration and gestational diabetes in a multi-ethnic Asian population.

011117-pregnancyThe findings suggest that addressing sleep concerns during pregnancy could potentially reduce the risk of women developing gestational diabetes which can cause health issues for women, their unborn child and the child after birth.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Singapore has the second highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations and it also has one of the highest rates of gestational diabetes which increases the risk of subsequently developing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers point out that to reduce and manage the burden of diabetes, it is imperative to identify the factors that may contribute to unhealthy blood glucose levels and sleep has been identified as one of the factors that affects glucose metabolism.

Some studies have indicated that short sleep is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes but few have examined the relationship between sleep and gestational diabetes, especially in an Asian population. Recent work suggests that adults in Singapore are among the most sleep deprived in the world and this lack of sleep could contribute to gestational diabetes in Asian women, who are already at increased risk compared with Caucasian women.

The researchers asked 686 women to complete a sleep questionnaire and they had their glucose levels measured in a standard clinical oral glucose tolerance test at 26 to 28 weeks of gestation. Of the 686 participants who had their glucose levels measured, 131 or 19% were diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Statistical analyses were run to assess whether exposure to short sleep, defined as less than six hours per night, was associated with greater odds of having gestational diabetes and the researchers found that short sleep was associated with increased risk.

The frequency of gestational diabetes was highest at 27.3% in women who reported sleeping less than six hours a night and was lowest at 16.8% in women who reported sleeping between seven to eight hours a night.

‘Our results raise the possibility that good sleep habits could reduce the likelihood of developing hyperglycaemia and gestational diabetes,’ said senior author Associate Professor Joshua Gooley from the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School.

‘The importance of healthy sleep habits should be emphasised to doctors and patients, in addition to initiatives that are geared toward improving other lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise,’ he added.

According to Dr Cai Shirong from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine the study provides a better understanding of how healthcare may be able to counter a potentially serious condition for pregnant women and their child but added that additional studies are needed to assess the contribution of other modifiable lifestyle factors to gestational diabetes risk.

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The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.