A common complication of pregnancy, gestational diabetes carries significant risks for both the health of the future mother and the unborn child. This is why the scientific and medical community is working to find ways to prevent it.
In a new study, published on March 10, 2023 in theAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal Fetal Medicine (Source 1), researchers report having observed a significant correlation between exposure to artificial light before bedtime and the risk of gestational diabetes. Pregnant women who were most exposed to light three hours before bedtime turned out to be most likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Light and metabolism, dangerous liaisons
“Our study suggests that exposure to light before bedtime may be a risk factor [inconsidéré] but easily modifiable gestational diabetes,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Minjee Kim, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (Hicago, USA), in a statement (Source 2).
To explain this strange correlation, the scientists point out that other studies suggest that exposure to artificial light before bedtime alter glucose regulation adults, excluding pregnancy. It is therefore possible that this phenomenon is also observed in pregnant women.
“There appears to be an inappropriate activation of the fight or flight response when it is time to rest,” said Dr Minjee Kim, referring here to what is called sympathetic hyperactivity, referring to the sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic overactivity, including increased heart rate, can lead to cardiometabolic disease, which is a group of conditions that include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, increased blood pressure, and imbalance. lipids, all leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Light, a risk factor to explore
The study was conducted among 741 women who were entering their second trimester of pregnancy at the start of the study, which was conducted between 2011 and 2013. Participants’ light exposure was measured by an actigraph worn on their wrist . After adjusting for any biases (body mass index before pregnancy, age, ethnicity, level of education, working hours, duration and regularity of sleep, etc.), exposure to artificial light before bedtime is remained significantly associated to gestational diabetes.
” We have [encore] much to prove, but my personal concern is that the light may silently contributing to this problem without most people realizing the potential damage”, alerted Dr. Kim. “ We don’t think about potential harm [occasionné par le fait de] keep a bright environment from when we wake up until we go to bed”added the researcher.
Dim the light to reduce its risk, a handy gesture
Next to losing weight, exercising or watching your diet closely, lowering the light intensity a few hours before bed seems a very easy thing to do to reduce your risk of gestational diabetes. If this measure is perhaps insufficient for some pregnant women, it deserves to be tackled, believe the authors of the study.
“ Turning off the lights is an easy change you can make “said Dr. Kim. “ From now on, I am the light police at home. I see all this light that I never thought of before. I try to dim the light as much as possible. Just for evening activities like dinner and bathing the kids, you don’t have no need for bright light “, she says again.
Television, smartphone, computer, ceiling lights, mood lamps… Many light sources can be present at the same time during an evening. Researchers advise everyone to reduce the light intensity of our interiors as much as possible when bedtime approaches. Ideally, it is better to keep the screens away from our eyes. But if we have to use them, we will make sure to keep the screens “ as dark as possible “, advises Dr. Kim again. Remember that the blue light from our screens has another major defect: that ofinhibit melatonin secretionsleep hormone, and thus delay falling asleep.