Gestational Diabetes Linked to Insufficient Sleep

New research out of Singapore found a link between gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and short sleep duration during pregnancy.  For the first time, this study looked at the relationship between GDM and sleep duration in an Asian population across multiple ethnic groups.  Published in the journal, SLEEP, findings suggested that risk of GDM could be reduced by addressing any sleep problems during pregnancy.

All around the world, diabetes has become a major health concern, with growing numbers in Asia.  The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) reported in 2015 that Singapore had the second highest number of diabetes patients in developed countries.  Furthermore, it has the most cases of GDM, increasing the risk of subsequent type 2 DM.

GDM is one of the most common problems in pregnancy, characterized by excessively high glucose levels in the blood.  If left untreated, it could lead to birth and delivery complications like obstructed labor, high blood pressure, birth trauma, and mortality.  This is why it is vital to identify the risks of GDM and determine what may be contributing to the condition.

As we have seen in previous studies, glucose metabolism is affected by sleep.  Some studies note that sleep deprivation, or short sleep duration, is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus as well.  Unfortunately, however, few clinical trials look at the relationship between GDM and sleep in Asian populations.

This recent research finds that Singapore adults are one of the most sleep deprived populations in the world.  With their higher rate of GDM, it was theorized that sleep deprivation might be contributing to the development of the condition in Asian women, who are already at increased risk due to ethnicity.

Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School and the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of medicine set out to analyze the glucose levels and sleep patterns of people within the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) study.

They chose 686 women who had their glucose levels measured at 26 and 28 weeks’ gestation and completed a sleep questionnaire.  Approximately 19% of these women had GDM.

When this was determined, researchers performed an analysis on whether short sleep duration (less than 6 hours each night) put them at higher risk of GDM.  It was noted that there was a link between GDM patients and short sleep duration, even after adjusting for age, history of GDM, and BMI.  Furthermore, women who reported getting between seven to eight hours of sleep each night were at decreased risk of GDM (16.8%), while women who had six or fewer hours were at higher risk (27.3%).

This is consistent with previous studies that linked type 2 diabetes mellitus with sleep deprivation in the general adult populations.

This suggests that good sleep hygiene and habits could reduce the risk of GDM and hyperglycemia in pregnant women.  Singapore has recently launched a ‘war on diabetes,’ so the importance of healthy sleep is being emphasized around the country, along with initiating measures aimed at changing lifestyle behaviors that contribute to short sleep.

This study offers an opportunity to develop better treatment methods for a potentially serious disease that affects women and unborn children.  Further research will be necessary to determine which modifiable factors can be addressed.

All participants in this study came from GUSTO, which is long-term research analyzing the effects of lifestyle on maternal health, the growth of the fetus, and the development of the child after birth.


Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.



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