Greater light exposure prior to sleep may raise risk of gestational diabetes

Pregnant woman uses computer while relaxing on bed prior to sleep.

Pregnant adults who had greater light exposure three hours prior to sleep had a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than those who had less exposure during this period, according to researchers. The findings suggest that those who are pregnant should limit light exposure prior to bedtime, they said. 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It can cause harm to both mother and baby. Studies show that the condition is on the rise nationwide. 

Recent studies show that greater exposure to light at night may cause impaired glucose regulation in non-pregnant adults. But little is known about the effect of light at night on pregnant people. Common sources of light at night include electronic screens or displays from televisions, laptops, tablets, and cell phones.
The current study included 741 women in their second trimester of pregnancy and was conducted at eight clinical sites in the United States between 2011 and 2013. The researchers measured light exposure among the participants using a special watch. After adjusting for various factors, including age, BMI, and daytime light exposure, the researchers found that greater light exposure three hours prior to sleep was significantly associated with gestational diabetes.   

Marishka Brown, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, agrees that this is an important study that adds to growing knowledge about effects of inopportune light exposure to health. 

“These findings not only underscore the importance of monitoring your sleep environment during pregnancy, but also highlight simple interventions to improve health," Brown said.

The study, funded by the NHLBI, appeared in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal Fetal Medicine