Less sleep and its effects on Blood sugar levels during Pregnancy.

3 min read

Here I’m again trying to gather some more information on gestational diabetes, but this time it is not connected with exercise and diet. This is more to do with how your sleep patterns have an effect on bodies’ hormones.

Although this article focuses on Gestational Diabetes, Sleep Deprivation is shown to adversely affect glucose metabolism in general (regardless of gender and pregnant/non-pregnant)[1]. Point is, if you are not pregnant, most of this info will still be relevant for you…

Gestational diabetes is a common problem among a lot of pregnant women, though it typically subsides after a woman gives birth, the only sad part is that, it leaves her and her baby at a high risk of developing diabetes and obesity.

I’m sure a lot of you may be having disturbed sleep in pregnancy that’s a common issue right? It’s difficult to find how much sleep is actually required by an individual but researches suggest at least 7-8 hours of sound sleep for all pregnant women. They may even need an extra nap or some extra hour of sleep.

Studies have shown a clear correlation between sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality and increased risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.

Obesity and lack of sleep as a clear connection. Let’s have a look!

Glucose tolerance and its circadian rhythm

Glucose tolerance refers to the ability of our body to maintain the blood sugars via 2 process – insulin-mediated and non-insulin mediated. In normal diabetes, tolerance depends on the ability of beta cells to produce insulin. When insulin sensitivity decreases, insulin secretion is more to maintain normal blood sugars.

Glucose tolerance varies during different sleep stages.

Let me explain this in brief –

Sleep does have a direct effect on metabolic and hormonal processes. Our sleep is divided into 5 stages. Stage 3, 4 are also known as slow-wave sleep and are thought to be the most restorative. Slow wave sleep is associated with transient metabolic, hormonal, and neurophysiological changes, all this can affect blood glucose homeostasis. Glucose metabolism is slower in the first part of the night when slow sleep wave dominates; these effects are reversed in the second part of the night. Looking at the above picture we can conclude that poor sleep for a longer time could affect overall glucose homeostasis.

Studies also suggest that utilization of glucose by the brain is less with mothers who are sleep deprived for a longer period of time.

Hormonal dysregulation because of lack of sleep –

Following hormone, dysregulation happens with lack of sleep

  • Cortisol
  • Growth hormone


According to studies mothers who slept only for 4 hours or less for a week had higher levels of growth hormone. This high level of growth hormone will contribute to higher glucose levels too.

Sleep deprivation also increases cortisol levels (stress hormone), this high level of cortisol in the night will increase morning insulin resistance.



Inflammation increase when sleep duration decreases, this can, in turn, increase insulin resistance.


Sympathetic nervous system activity (SNS)

Sleep-deprived mothers have higher sympathetic nervous system activity (inhibits insulin release) and lower parasympathetic activity (stimulates the release of insulin), both of which increase glucose levels in the blood. Overactivity of SNS can even cause insulin resistance.


Weight increase

Less sleep has an effect on hunger hormones

  • Leptin – Appetite suppressor
  • Ghrelin- Appetite increaser

When you sleep less the level of hormone leptin decreases and that of ghrelin increases, creating an imbalance and further resulting in increased food intake. This can lead to fat gain (weight gain).

An increase in fat deposit in the body is associated with increased insulin resistance and decreased sensitivity.


All the above pointers clearly indicate that mothers who don’t sleep well in the first trimester can be at a high risk of developing GDM in the later trimesters of their pregnancy.

Note – Sleep of 5 hours or less for a long time can increase the chances of GDM. Also, a lot of other factors also play an important role and not only sleep. Sleep is one of the aspects from them.


So get your favorite pillow a nice bedtime story for you and your baby and get the soundest sleep this pregnancy 😉

Track Your Sleep Duration and Quality With FiTT@DawaiBox.






Disti Vira, Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

Disti Vira, Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

Her fitness mantra is “do not start with a diet that has an expiration date, instead, focus on a healthy lifestyle that will last forever”. Disti has completed post graduation in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also a certified Diabetes Educator. She is keen on bringing together her acquired knowledge on nutrition and other health aspects with people’s goals to achieve a healthy life. For her fitness is not being better than someone else; it’s about being better than who we used to be. “We don’t have to be great to start, but we have to start to be great". So give your best! She can be reached at shahdisti@gmail.com for any consults.

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