- Unmanaged high glucose levels in pregnancy can result in complications that can affect both mother and child.
- Addressing sleep concerns during pregnancy could potentially reduce the risk of developing GDM.
Short sleep during pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).
This is the first study to examine the relationship between sleep duration and GDM in a multi-ethnic Asian population.
‘Adults in Singapore are among the most sleep-deprived in the world and this may be a risk factor that alters glucose metabolism in pregnant women, increasing their risk of GDM.’
In a 2015 report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Singapore was found to have the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations. It also has one of the highest rates of GDM, which increases the risk of subsequent Type 2 diabetes.
GDM, which is diagnosed by high blood glucose levels, is one of the most common health problems during pregnancy. Unmanaged high glucose levels in pregnancy can result in complications that can affect both mother and child including pre-term labour, obstructed labour, birth trauma, high blood pressure for mothers, and increased risk of mother and foetal deaths.
Recent work suggests that adults in Singapore are among the most sleep-deprived in the world. This lack of sleep could contribute to GDM in Asian women, who are already at increased risk of GDM compared with Caucasian women.
Sleep has been identified as one of the factors that affects glucose metabolism, and some studies have indicated that short sleep is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. However, few studies have examined the relationship between sleep and GDM, especially in an Asian population.
In order to determine if short sleep duration is associated with increased risk of GDM, Associate Professor Joshua Gooley from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Dr Cai Shirong from the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, a member of the National University Health System (NUHS), analysed the sleep and glucose levels of participants in the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) study.
To examine the potential link between short sleep and GDM, 686 women completed a sleep questionnaire and had their glucose levels measured in a standard clinical test (oral glucose tolerance test) at 26 to 28 weeks of gestation. Of the 686 participants who had their glucose levels measured, 131 (19%) were diagnosed with GDM.
Statistical analyses were run to assess whether exposure to short sleep, defined as less than 6 hours per night, was associated with greater odds of having GDM.
The researchers found that short sleep was associated with increased risk of GDM, after adjusting for factors including age, BMI, and history of GDM. Interestingly, the frequency of GDM was highest (27.3%) in women who reported sleeping less than six hours a night and was lowest (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 hyperglycemia and GDM," said senior author Assoc Prof Gooley, from the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS.
"Our study provides a better understanding of how we may be able to counter a potentially serious condition for pregnant women and her child," added first author, Dr Cai. "Additional studies are needed to assess the contribution of other modifiable lifestyle factors to GDM risk."
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.
- Joshua Gooley et al., Study finds association between insufficient sleep and gestational diabetes mellitus, Sleep (2017).