Pregnant women advised to dim lights before bed to reduce diabetes risk

While reading until the small hours or scrolling under the covers are common bedtime habits, pregnant women might want to switch off sooner to reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes, researchers have suggested.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, gestational diabetes affects at least four to five in 100 women during pregnancy. If it is not well controlled it can lead to complications, including health problems for the baby.
Now research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal Fetal Medicine has revealed pregnant women who are exposed to greater levels of light in the three hours before sleep appear to be more likely to develop diabetes during their pregnancy.
Light at night may be an unrecognised risk for acquiring a serious pregnancy complication,” said Dr Minjee Kim, the lead author of the study at Northwestern University.
Among other studies, researchers have previously found people who work shifts are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, while greater exposure to outdoor artificial light at night has also been linked to an increased risk of the condition.
It is thought exposure to light at night suppresses levels of a hormone called melatonin, disrupts the body’s internal clock, and impacts various metabolic processes, such as regulation of blood sugar levels.
“While we can’t prove it from this observational study, similar mechanisms may play a role in pregnant women,” said Kim.
Between 2011 and 2013, Kim and colleagues asked 741 pregnant women in the US who were in their second trimester to wear light sensors on their wrists and complete a daily sleep diary for around a week.
The researchers split the participants into three even-sized groups based on their median exposure to dim light in the three hours before sleep. The results reveal 16 of the 247 women who only spent about 1.7 hours in dim light developed gestational diabetes, compared with 12 of those who spent about 2.2 hours in dim light, and three of those who spent about 2.6 hours in dim light.
While only a small number of women developed gestational diabetes, the results revealed a trend.

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