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Sleep apnea causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea increases the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attack, according to background information in the study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"It is common for pregnant women to experience sleep disruptions, but the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea increases substantially in women who have gestational diabetes," study author Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, who conducted the research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a journal news release.
The study included 15 pregnant women with gestational diabetes, 15 pregnant women without the condition and 15 women who were not pregnant and did not have diabetes. Pregnant women without gestational diabetes got an additional hour of sleep per night and had less fragmented sleep than those with gestational diabetes.
"Nearly 75 percent of the participants in our study who had gestational diabetes also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea," Reutrakul said.
While the study found an increased risk of having sleep apnea among pregnant women with gestational diabetes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Previous research has shown that less sleep, fragmented sleep and shorter periods spent in deep sleep, which are all symptoms of sleep apnea, can increase a person's risk of developing diabetes.
"Based on these findings, women who have gestational diabetes should be considered for evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea, especially if other risk factors such as hypertension or obesity are present, and women already diagnosed with sleep apnea should be monitored for signs of gestational diabetes during pregnancy," Reutrakul said.
-- Robert Preidt
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