Sleep Apnea and Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes Linked To Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Pregnant Women

Between three and eight per cent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes in Australia. Gestational diabetes is a condition where glucose levels in the blood rise to above normal levels in pregnant women. This form of diabetes occurs typically in the second trimester.

A new study found a link between gestational diabetes and sleep apnea, which causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can raise the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Pregnant women who have gestational diabetes may be at risk of developing sleep apnea

In this study conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, nearly 75 percent of the participants who had gestational diabetes also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep disruptions are a common complaint in pregnancy. But obstructive sleep apnea is a totally different and a more serious sleep disorder.

“The risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea increases substantially in women who have gestational diabetes,” said Sirimon Reutrakul, MD, who conducted the research.

In a series of observational case control studies, researchers monitored women for sleep apnea and other sleep disruptions. Among them, the research examined sleep health in 15 pregnant women who had gestational diabetes, 15 pregnant women who did not have the condition and 15 women who were not pregnant and did not have diabetes.

The study found a strong association between obstructive sleep apnea and gestational diabetes in this group of mostly overweight or obese women. Pregnant women who did not have gestational diabetes were able to get an additional hour of sleep and had less fragmented sleep than women who had gestational diabetes. Past research has shown lost sleep, fragmented sleep and shorter periods spent in deep sleep — all symptoms of sleep apnea — are likely to raise the risk a person will develop other health problems such as hypertentions and cardiovascular conditions, long term brain disorders, diabetes, and daytime fatigue with higher risks of having accidents.

“Based on these findings, women who have gestational diabetes should be considered for evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea, especially if other risk factors such as hypertension or obesity are present, and women already diagnosed with sleep apnea should be monitored for signs of gestational diabetes during pregnancy,” Reutrakul said.

Other researchers working on the study include: N. Zaidi, K. Wroblewski, H. Kay, M. Ismail, D. Ehrmann and E. Van Cauter of the University of Chicago.