Sleep and Gestational Diabetes: A Possible Link

Insulin resistance linked to sleep-disordered breathing in early pregnancy

(RxWiki News) How you breathe while sleeping during early pregnancy may affect your risk for gestational diabetes.

That's a takeaway from a small study that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently funded. This research found that sleep-disordered breathing in early pregnancy was tied to a later risk of insulin resistance or difficulty processing glucose in the blood.

According to a press release from the NIH, this finding strengthens a suspected link between gestational diabetes and sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep-disordered breathing can look several different ways, including pausing or slowed breathing during sleep. And gestational diabetes is a condition during pregnancy in which the body cannot properly process insulin and glucose, leading to high blood sugar. Gestational diabetes can lead to various negative health outcomes for expectant mothers and unborn babies.

This study of 221 pregnant women suggested that the two conditions are linked. All of the women in this study were considered overweight or obese — a risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing. Researchers monitored the participants between the 11th and 15th weeks of their pregnancies.

Women who experienced sleep-disordered breathing more often were more likely to show signs of insulin resistance and high blood sugar, the study authors found.

This study was relatively small, so further research is warranted. However, the study authors suggested that screening pregnant women for sleep-disordered breathing could help doctors identify those who are good candidates for interventions to reduce diabetes risk.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, ask your health care provider about your risk of gestational diabetes and sleep-disordered breathing.

This study was published in the journal Sleep.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of General Medical Sciences and NIH funded this research. Information about potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
January 19, 2022