As you likely know, certain lifestyle factors can weigh on your ability to conceive. If you’re underweight or overweight, follow a poor diet, smoke, drink, abstain from physical activity and generally are in poor health you could be impacting your fertility in a negative way. But what about something as simple as sleep? Can sleep affect your fertility? And if so, how? Let’s dive in!
Lack of sleep can affect fertility-related hormones
Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. 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 the daily release of reproductive hormones.
- The hormones that trigger ovulation in women and sperm maturation in men may be linked to the body’s sleep-wake cycle. For example, if you are a woman, long-term sleep deprivation can directly affect the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) – the hormone that triggers ovulation as part of the regulation of your menstrual cycle. The resulting irregularity of menstruation may mean that it takes longer for you to become pregnant.
Importance of the quality of the sleep when trying to conceive
The importance of sleep is not only tied to the number of hours, but also to the quality of sleep: waking up frequently during the night disrupts the normal sleep cycle, which includes a deep sleep stage during which the body restores itself. Consistent poor-quality sleep can contribute to:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Hormone imbalance
all of which can lead to fertility problems.
What else connects sleep and fertility?
Long-term lack of sleep can disrupt more than your hormonal balance. It can affect your fertility indirectly too.
- Mood changes. Over time, this could disrupt your relationship with your spouse or sexual partner.
- Increasing your health conditions that can affect your fertility. These include diabetes, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease and obesity.
- Stress. Decreased sleep has been known to increase stress levels
Studies show that Obstructive Sleep Apnea is more commonly seen in infertile women and increases the odds that a woman will be infertile. More studies need to be done and we still have a lot to learn about how exactly sleep disorders may affect infertility. Even so, the results suggest that women can add infertility to the long list of health reasons to get help when they can’t fall or stay asleep.
Five suggestions for improved sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule
Do not schedule more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people do not need more than eight hours in bed to be well rested. Go to bed at the same time every day and get up at the same time, even on weekends. Being consistent will strengthen your body’s sleep-wake rhythm. If you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you are tired. Repeat as needed, but continue to maintain your sleep and wake-up rhythms.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Do not go to bed hungry or full. Especially avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours before bedtime. Discomfort could keep you awake. Also be careful with nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can interfere with sleep. And even if alcohol makes you sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
Create a restful environment
Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Light in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using blackout blinds, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Calming activities before bed, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, can promote sleep.
Include physical activity in your daily routine
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. However, avoid being active too close to bedtime. Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too. Try going out for an hour or more out in the sunlight each day.
Try to sort out your worries or concerns before you go to bed. Write down what is on your mind and set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management can help. Start with the basics, like getting organized, setting priorities, and delegating tasks. Meditation can also relieve anxiety.
You’re now familiar with at least some ways to get more and better sleep. 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.