Gestational diabetes, a common condition occurring in about 6 out of every 100 pregnancies in the United States annually, can lead to complications such as large babies at birth, premature delivery, and low blood sugar in newborns (
Additionally, it raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life for the mother. Some risk factors for gestational diabetes, such as family history, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and age, are beyond one’s control.
However, the study’s findings suggest that “evening light exposure” may be a new risk factor for gestational diabetes.
Study Findings: Evening Light Exposure and Gestational Diabetes Risk
The research involved 741 pregnant participants in their second trimester from various clinical sites across the United States. Each participant wore a wrist monitor to measure light exposure and maintained a sleep diary for seven consecutive days.
After adjusting for confounding factors, the analysis revealed that those with higher light exposure (from sources like TVs, cell phones, and laptops) three hours before bedtime had an increased risk of gestational diabetes compared to those with less exposure during that period. Specifically, those with the highest evening light exposure had a five-fold greater risk of developing gestational diabetes than those with the lowest exposure.
Lead study author Dr. Minjee Kim, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist, noted, “Our study suggests that light exposure before bedtime may be an under-recognized yet easily modifiable risk factor of gestational diabetes.”
Interestingly, the study did not find a significant impact on gestational diabetes risk related to daytime light exposure. It’s essential to acknowledge that this study was observational and based on a relatively small sample size. Furthermore, it did not address whether limiting evening light exposure could benefit individuals already diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The researchers speculate that several factors may contribute to the effect of evening light exposure on blood sugar regulation and gestational diabetes risk, including its negative impact on melatonin levels and glucose metabolism.
Strategies to Reduce Gestational Diabetes Risk
Considering the study’s findings, reducing evening light exposure may help lower the risk of gestational diabetes.
Simple steps such as replacing nighttime screen time with reading a book or listening to a podcast, setting phone alarms to remind you to turn off screens, and dimming lights and electronic device screens in the evening may offer some benefits.
While wearing blue light-blocking glasses may improve sleep quality, further research is needed to confirm their effectiveness in reducing evening light exposure.
In addition to limiting evening light exposure, there are other steps you can take to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes:
- Include naturally blue produce in your diet, such as blueberries and blackberries, as they contain anthocyanin, a unique antioxidant associated with a reduced risk of gestational diabetes
- Increase your fiber intake, which not only helps protect against gestational diabetes but also aids in preventing constipation. Ensure you stay adequately hydrated
- Adopt a diet following the Mediterranean Diet pattern, rich in plant fats, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds
- Engage in regular physical activity before and during early pregnancy, following your healthcare provider’s guidance and recommendations
NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance on managing gestational diabetes and maintaining a safe and healthy pregnancy.
While the development of gestational diabetes can have multiple causes, some of which are beyond your control, receiving this diagnosis does not guarantee negative outcomes.
By taking proactive steps to manage your blood sugar and reduce risk factors, including limiting evening light exposure, you can contribute to a healthier pregnancy.
- The association between light exposure before bedtime in pregnancy and the risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus – (https:pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36907513/)