Sleep and fertility. Have you ever thought about how they relate to one another?
Sleep plays a vital role in all our lives, affecting the quality of life, overall health, and, importantly, fertility. Getting a good night’s sleep helps refresh and restore your brain and organ systems and regulate important hormones in your body – including fertility-related hormones.
Lack of Sleep Can Affect Fertility-Related Hormones
Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of people don’t get enough sleep.1 If you’re one of them, and you’re also concerned about your fertility, here’s information that may surprise you:
- In both men and women, the same part of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones (such as melatonin and cortisol) also triggers a daily release of reproductive hormones.
- The hormones that trigger ovulation in women and the sperm-maturation process in men may be tied into the body’s sleep-wake patterns. For example, if you’re a woman, long-term lack of sleep may directly affect the release of luteinizing hormone, or LH — the hormone that triggers ovulation as part of regulating your menstrual cycle. The resulting menstrual irregularity may mean it takes longer for you to conceive.
Could this hormonal connection between your sleep and fertility mean there’s also a connection between lack of sleep and, perhaps, not being as fertile as you could or would like to be?
A study published in 2015 stated that not much is known about how sleep affects fertility.
However, working at night or working rotating shifts may have an impact on fertility and miscarriage, according to a study published in 2016.
What Else Connects Sleep and Fertility?
Long-term lack of sleep can disrupt more than your hormonal balance. Research suggests that it can also affect your fertility in indirect ways, including:
Making you moody and irritable. Over time, this could disrupt your relationship with your spouse or sexual partner and lead to fewer opportunities for pregnancy to occur.
Increasing your risk of diseases and conditions that can affect your fertility. These include diabetes, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease and obesity.
You’re probably familiar with at least some ways to get more and better sleep. If so, try them! And remember, if your sleep and fertility problems continue, it may be time to talk to your doctor to find out if an underlying medical condition may be a factor.
Because sleep and daylight are integral to our biological clocks, it’s important to get sufficient amounts of both.
Here are some guidelines.
- Honor your personal sleep needs: Although the optimal amount of sleep is about 8 hours on average, requirements vary from person to person and somewhat from season to season.
- Adjust your lighting: Turning down dimmer switches and using low-wattage bulbs in the evening are helpful for someone who has trouble falling asleep.
- Don’t work odd hours if you can help it: Since shift work can affect fertility, avoid it if possible.
- Get outdoors: Shoot for an hour or more out in sunlight each day, even if you have to split it up with a 10-minute walk in the morning, lunch on the patio, and a quick Frisbee toss with your dog in the late afternoon.
- Keep your sleep and wake time consistent: Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Still your mind: Before bed, avoid paying bills, reading books or watching movies with troubling storylines, and any other activities that could keep your mind racing rather than relax into a peaceful sleep. Instead, make a habit out of nightly calming rituals like spiritual reflection and partner massage.
- Keep a space cushion between stimulants and sleep: Consume caffeine and alcohol in moderation when you’re trying to get pregnant, and limit your use to more than five hours before bedtime.
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