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Sarah Farabi, PhD, RN

Sleep Disordered Breathing Accounts for Abnormal Glycemic Profiles in Obese Pregnant Women

Sarah Farabi
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) includes symptoms ranging from snoring to periodic cessation of breathing (apnea). SDB insidiously worsens metabolic dysregulation and in pregnancy, it is believed to provoke both maternal and fetal complications. Despite sleep disturbances being a common complaint in pregnancy, SDB remains under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and poorly understood in pregnancies affected by obesity.

Dr. Farabi studies the strength of the relationship between SDB and glucose patterns and insulin resistance in obese women during late pregnancy. Dr. Farabi also examines the association between SDB, activation of stress pathways, and selected adverse maternal and fetal outcomes in obese pregnant women. Results from her research will help to design future studies aimed at determining mechanisms behind disrupted sleep and altered metabolism. Results of her work may help to underscore the importance of recognizing SDB as a major but treatable risk factor for maternal metabolic disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes.​

We asked her some questions about her life, her current work, and her hopes for the future of her research.

When you were young, what did you envision yourself doing when you grew up? What specific life events led you to become a scientist, and to pursue your current research?

I always thought that I would be in the field of science. My mom is a nuclear pharmacist and most of her work is centered around research, so she always encouraged me in the science-related fields. I went to school to become a pharmacist and then decided that I didn’t want to do pharmacy and wanted to pursue nursing. After working for a few years as a staff nurse, I realized that I should stop fighting the fact that I am just like my mom and go back to school to pursue my PhD because research and teaching is really what I enjoy.
If you had to summarize your research briefly, how would you describe it?

My research focus is trying to understand the link between sleep disruption and metabolic disease.  My current focus is understanding the relationship between sleep disruption and alterations in metabolism during pregnancy. However, I also focus on understanding the relationship between sleep disruption and glycemic control in type 1 diabetes.
What are the real-world applications for your work? How can it help people?
Sleep is a modifiable behavior. If we can understand how it worsens metabolic control, we can develop interventions to improve sleep and potentially improve outcomes.  Improving sleep may not only have beneficial impacts on metabolism, it also reduces fatigue, improves mood and reduces accidents due to fatigue and drowsiness.
What are your plans for the future of your research?
I'm currently working on a pilot study, and in the future I would like to develop larger studies where we develop interventions to improve sleep and determine how that relates to better health outcomes.