Pregnant women who are exposed to artificial light three hours before bedtime are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes.
- 741 pregnant women were followed to examine the link between exposure to light before sleeping and the risk of suffering from gestational diabetes.
- Participants exposed to artificial light before bedtime had a higher risk of developing this sugar tolerance disorder.
- To reduce the risks, it is necessary to reduce the lighting at home or your exposure to blue light from screens during the three hours before falling asleep.
In France, the frequency of gestational diabetes has increased from 10.8% in 2016 to 16.4% in 2021, according to the 2021 national perinatal survey. It is a sugar tolerance disorder with a more or less significant increase in blood sugar. This anomaly appears during pregnancy and disappears after delivery. Gestational diabetes can affect the health of both mother and unborn child.
A link between nocturnal exposure to artificial light and the risk of gestational diabetes?
Recently, researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (USA) revealed that reducing the intensity of lights at home or exposure to blue light from screens before going to bed reduced the risk of developing gestational diabetes. To reach this conclusion, they conducted a study, the results of which were published in the journal American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM.
“Growing evidence suggests that nighttime light exposure may be linked to impaired glucose regulation in non-pregnant adults,” they indicated. As part of this work, the scientists therefore wanted to examine the link between exposure to artificial light before sleeping during pregnancy and the risk of suffering from gestational diabetes.
For this, they recruited 741 women, who were in their second trimester of pregnancy, between 2011 and 2013. The light exposure of the participants was measured using an ActiGraph device worn on the wrist. The participants benefited from systematic screening for gestational diabetes and had to indicate the quality and duration of their sleep for seven days.
Sympathetic hyperactivity: exposure to light increases heart rate
A total of 31 volunteers developed gestational diabetes. According to the authors, greater light exposure before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes. They point out that exposure to light before sleep can lead to abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and increased blood pressure.
It can also affect glucose metabolism through sympathetic overactivity, which means that the heart rate increases before bedtime when it should decrease. “There seems to be an inappropriate activation of the fight-or-flight reaction when it’s time to rest,” said Minjee Kim, author of the study, in a statement. The researcher adds that this sympathetic hyperactivity can lead to the occurrence of cardiometabolic diseases.
“But even after adjusting for BMI and age, gestational diabetes continues to increase. (…) I fear that light is silently contributing to this problem without most people realizing the potential damage” , she points out.
Gestational diabetes: reduce lighting three hours before sleep
At this time, the team does not know which artificial light source is causing the problem, but “It may all add up”. She therefore recommends that pregnant women reduce the lighting in their environment during the three hours before they fall asleep. “It’s best not to use your computer or phone during this time. But if you must use them, reduce the screen brightness as much as possible.”
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