The Surprising Link Between Sleep and Gestational Diabetes
Around week 24 to week 28 of pregnancy, your doctor will offer you a glucose screening, where you’ll have to chug a super-sweet orange liquid and then get your blood drawn. This screening looks for gestational diabetes (GDM) — a form of diabetes, or insulin resistance, that happens during pregnancy and affects approximately one in 10 expecting women. Your doctor has likely already talked to you about some of the ways you can lower your risk of GDM, including paying extra careful attention to the foods you eat. But a new study, published this week in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, shows that there’s another not-so-obvious factor that can increase your risk: not getting enough sleep.
THE LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND DIABETES
Over the past few decades, women have been sleeping less, the authors note. One recent study noted that nearly one in four (24 percent) of women aren’t sleeping enough. What’s more, between a frequent need to pee, leg cramps, heart burn and plain old insomnia, plenty of pregnant women have a harder time sleeping than ever. Not getting enough sleep, they say, has been linked to preterm birth and postpartum depression, possibly because it increases levels of inflammation throughout the body.
Other studies have found a link, though not consistently, between lack of sleep and gestational diabetes as well as type 2 diabetes. Not getting enough shut-eye can mess with lots of hormone levels, including insulin — the hormone responsible for helping your body process sugar. After a few days of sleep deprivation, people are less sensitive to insulin, so their bodies release more of it, leading to a decrease in glucose tolerance.
WHAT THE STUDY LOOKED AT
Researchers from the U.S., Thailand and Canada looked at eight studies published through July 2017 involving more than 17,000 expecting women. The studies looked at both the amount of time they slept and rates of hyperglycemia — i.e., high blood sugar, or a measure of gestational diabetes, taking into account other factors that could increase the odds of GDM (such as being overweight or an older mom).
WHAT IT FOUND
Moms-to-be who slept less than six to seven hours per night were almost twice as likely to have gestational diabetes. Compared to women who slept more than 6.25 hours, those who slept less time had higher blood-sugar levels an hour after glucose tolerance testing and were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
Having gestational diabetes, increases your risk of preeclampsia and C-section, if left untreated, as well as increasing your risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life. Which is why you’ll want to take the steps you can to reduce your risk of GDM: keep your calories in check, gain the right amount of weight, eat a healthy pregnancy diet and work out.
What’s more, this study shows one more reason sleep is super important. Even if it seems impossible, prioritize getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep, get in a relaxing wind-down routine at night (bath, book, meditation). If heartburn is keeping you up, avoid fatty, spicy, greasy and acidic foods and prop up your head with a pillow. For a frequent need to pee, cut back on liquids in the hour or so before bedtime. And to ease general discomfort, try sleeping your left side to reduce overall swelling and prop your body up with pillows.
Seven hours of sleep is simply not possible for any number of reasons (ahem, other kids at home)? You may be able to make up for the effects less sleep by napping during the day, the authors note (although the jury is still out on if it can fully make up for lost sleep at night). So don’t feel guilty about indulging in a mid-afternoon snooze!