THURSDAY, June 11, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who snore regularly are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, new research has found.
In the study, 189 healthy women completed a sleep survey when they were between six and 20 weeks pregnant, and again in their third trimester.
The researchers found that pregnant women who were frequent snorers -- defined as snoring at least three nights per week -- had a 14.3 percent chance of developing gestational diabetes, but among women who did not snore the risk was 3.3 percent.
Taking into account other factors that could increase the risk of gestational diabetes -- body-mass index, age, race and ethnicity -- the researchers found that there was still an association between frequent snoring and the disease, according to a news release from Northwestern University.
"Sleep disturbances during pregnancy may negatively affect your cardiovascular system or metabolism," study author Dr. Francesca Facco said in the news release. Facco will soon be joining the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University as an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and as a maternal and fetal medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The study, which the authors said is the first to link snoring and gestational diabetes, is to be presented Thursday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting, in Seattle.
"Snoring may be a sign of poor air flow and diminished oxygenation during sleep that can cause a cascade of events in your body," Facco explained. "This may activate your sympathetic nervous system, so your blood pressure rises at night. This can also provoke inflammatory and metabolic changes, increasing the risk of diabetes or poor sugar tolerance."
The study also found that pregnancy increases the likelihood that a woman will snore. Early in pregnancy, frequent snoring was reported by only 11 percent of the women in the study, but by the third trimester, 16.5 percent snored frequently.
Although the cause for the link between snoring and gestational diabetes in not well understood, Facco suggested that it could be due to weight gain and fluid retention, which could cause increased airway resistance.
In gestational diabetes, pregnant women who had not previously been diagnosed with diabetes develop high blood sugar levels. It is estimated to occur in about 4 percent of pregnant women, and those who develop it are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes later in life, according to background information in the news release.
Gestational diabetes can cause problems for the baby, too. Some of the risks to the baby include: being large for gestational age, which may lead to delivery complications; low blood sugar levels; obesity later in life; and impaired sugar tolerance or metabolic syndrome later in life.
More study is needed to shed light on the association between snoring and gestational diabetes, which could lead to new interventions to treat pregnant women with sleep disorders.
"If snoring is bothering a woman who is pregnant, she should seek a consultation with a sleep specialist," Facco said.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has information on gestational diabetes.