New U.S. research has found a link between a lack of sleep during pregnancy and an increased risk of gestational diabetes.
Carried out by the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, the large-scale meta-analysis looked at eight studies which included 17,308 pregnant women.
All of the studies asked the women to self-report on their sleep duration, except one which measured sleep objectively using an accelerometer, and assessed the women for gestational diabetes.
The team also gathered data from the authors of four additional studies which measured the blood sugar levels and sleep duration objectively in 287 pregnant women with gestational diabetes.
After carrying out their analysis, the researchers found that an average of less than 6 hours sleep a night was associated with a 1.7 fold increase in the risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
In addition, the team also found from the studies where sleep was measured objectively that those who slept less than 6.25 hours per night had a 2.84 fold increase in risk of having the condition compared to women who slept more than 6.25 hours per night.
These women also had higher blood sugar levels on their screening test.
"This is the first meta-analysis to find that both self-reported and objectively measured short sleep duration was associated with elevated blood sugar levels in pregnancy as well as an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes," commented lead author of the study Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, who now recommends further research to confirm the findings, and to determine whether more sleep could help lower the risk of gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that most often occurs in the second or third trimester and affects between three and seven percent of all pregnancies in the United States. Although there are often no symptoms in the mother, and blood sugar levels return to normal after the baby is born, the condition does put women at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes also tend to have high birth weights, as well as also being at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life.
Most health care providers suggest that pregnant women undergo a blood sugar screening test between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy as high blood sugar levels indicate a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. An additional test is also needed to diagnose the condition.
The findings can be found published online in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.