Gestational diabetes is on the rise in the US and worldwide. About 5 to 6 percent of all expectant mothers are affected. Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels, which are first detected during pregnancy. Mothers who suffer from gestational diabetes can also put their baby at risk, because the danger of developing disabilities increases. New research links light exposure during pregnancy with gestational diabetes.
Exposure to Light Before Bed Increases the Risk of Gestational Diabetes
A growing body of evidence shows that nocturnal light exposure before bedtime is associated with impaired glucose regulation in nonpregnant adults. However, little is known about the impact of evening light exposure during pregnancy on the risk of developing gestational diabetes, a common complication during pregnancy with significant health implications for both mother and child. Gestational diabetes increases the mother’s risk of diabetes, heart disease and dementia. Children are more likely to suffer from obesity and high blood pressure as they get older.
Pregnant women should dim the lights in their home and turn off, or at least dim, their screens a few hours before bed time to reduce their risk of gestational diabetes, according to a new study published March 10 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal Fetal Medicine. Bright light before bed can come from electronic devices such as televisions, computers and smartphones. Women who developed gestational diabetes in the multisite study were exposed to higher levels of light in the three hours before falling asleep. They did not differ in their light exposure during the day or during sleep, or in their level of activity compared to women who did not develop the disease. The study suggests that light exposure before bedtime may be an underestimated but easily modifiable risk factor for gestational diabetes. The results show that women with gestational diabetes are almost ten times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus than women who do not have glucose problems during pregnancy. And: If pregnant women develop gestational diabetes during their first pregnancy, they are more likely to have it again in the next pregnancy.
The Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases and Obesity also Increases
According to the researchers, light exposure before bedtime can affect glucose metabolism through sympathetic overactivity, which means your heart rate before bedtime will increase when it should be decreasing. It seems that the fight or flight response activates inappropriately when it’s time to rest. The data shows that sympathetic overactivity can lead to cardiometabolic disease, which is a collection of disorders including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, and imbalance of lipids, all of which lead to cardiovascular diseases.
The study of 741 second trimester women was conducted between 2011 and 2013 at eight US clinical sites. Participants’ exposure to light was measured using an Actigraph worn on their wrists. The women were measured during the second trimester of pregnancy, the time when they are routinely screened for gestational diabetes. After adjusting for age, BMI, race/ethnicity, education, occupational insurance, employment schedule, season, sleep duration, sleep center, sleep regularity index, and daylight exposure separately, pre-sleep light exposure remained significantly associated with gestational diabetes. The increasing rate of gestational diabetes has been attributed in part to the increasing body mass index and aging of pregnant women. But even after adjusting for BMI and age, gestational diabetes still increased.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes: What Can You Do?
The study underscores the importance of reducing light exposure before bedtime. The researchers recommend dimming the lights in your environment during the three hours before bed. In addition, the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets should be avoided. If you do use it, however, you should ensure that the screens are as dark as possible. Other factors to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes are following a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent metabolic diseases.
Coffee Consumption After Pregnancy is Associated With a Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Good news for caffeine lovers: According to research from the University of Singapore drinking coffee regularly can protect women who had diabetes during pregnancy from developing type 2 diabetes later. The scientists found that instead of drinking artificial and sugar-sweetened beverages, consuming two to five cups of either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee a day may be a healthier substitute for delaying or preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. This is likely due to the bioactive compounds in coffee, such as polyphenols, which are naturally occurring plant micronutrients. Bioactive components are types of chemicals found in small amounts in plants and certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and whole grains, that can promote good health. Nevertheless, women should be careful when it comes to caffeine consumption. Especially during pregnancy it is important to discuss this topic with your doctor. According to the European Food Safety Authority, 200 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe for the fetus.