Odds are you have experienced the downsides of lack of sleep at least a few times in your life. Sleep is essential for keeping our bodies running optimally and contributes to our health and wellness in a big way, but can sleep affect your fertility? While we may not know all the science behind the mechanism of sleep’s restorative nature and why we need to do it for an extended period of time, we know sleep is key. We know how much sleep we need each night and what can happen when we do not get enough. On the other hand, too much sleep can also impact the body. Some people are under the impression our bodies shut down during sleep and this is how we get the benefits, but that’s not the case. While sleeping, your body and mind are working to maintain, restore, and strengthen themselves. It makes sense that sleep can affect pretty much every aspect of your health, including fertility.
The Importance of Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for healthy adults. While we sleep, our bodies and brains slow down to engage in the process of recovery and restoration on a cellular level, which promotes better physical and mental performance the next day. Without proper sleep, these fundamental processes fail to occur, thus affecting thinking, concentration, energy levels, and mood
An average sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes. Ideally, you need four to six cycles of sleep a night. Each cycle contains four individual stages: three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages of sleep and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. The time spent in each stage varies the longer you’re asleep. You may even bounce between stages each night. Some people feel as long as they get 8 hours of sleep each night, they are getting enough rest. However, the time you go to sleep actually does matter. According to Healthline, it is best to go to bed earlier and wake up in the early morning hours. Our biological tendencies are to adapt our sleep patterns to the sun.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
- Struggling to stay awake when inactive
- Constant yawning
- Needing multiple power naps
- All-day drowsiness
- Grogginess when waking in the morning
- Poor concentration
- Slow response times
- Mood changes
- Excessive sleepiness
7 Ways Sleep Affects Fertility
We know sleep deprivation impacts general wellness and we know that the healthier you are, the better your chances of conceiving. Although there isn’t a great deal of knowledge on the direct effect of sleep deprivation and fertility, there have been studies that show a possible correlation between the amount of sleep someone gets and their fertility.
1. Melatonin Levels and Fertility
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness (it’s known as the sleep hormone). In addition to helping you sleep, it can be used to support fertility. Melatonin is an antioxidant that can assist in reversing oxidative damage to oocytes and in turn improving egg quality.
Here are some ways you can increase melatonin production naturally:
- Dim lights and reduce screen time at night.
- Lower your core temperature with a cold shower before bed.
- Use blue-light glasses.
- Filter out blue light with an app if you’re working on a device.
2. Hormones and Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation causes imbalances in many hormones. Unfortunately, the imbalance of these hormones in turn causes more sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep increases adrenal stress and cellular resistance to insulin. Sleep deprivation also increases TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones) resulting in a slower metabolism and reduced thyroid function. Your sex hormones are likely to be affected by sleep deprivation. When the body is stressed and cortisol goes up, the body produces fewer sex hormones, including testosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone. In order for everything to function properly, your hormones must be balanced.
Sleep deprivation is associated with a slew of increased health risks that can contribute to stress on the body, such as an increased risk of heart disease. In addition to the physical stress, not getting enough sleep causes mental stress. The American Psychological Association found 21 percent of adults report feeling more stressed when they don’t get enough sleep. Women whose saliva had high levels of the stress enzyme marker alpha-amylase took 29% longer to get pregnant compared to those who had less of the enzyme.
According to research, your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake pattern, may be linked to reproductive hormones that trigger ovulation. Sleep deprivation can cause menstrual irregularity making it difficult to predict ovulation and prolong the process of trying to conceive.
5. Egg Quality
Several studies reveal that the blue light from our electronics isn’t just keeping us from getting enough sleep, but it can affect the egg quality. Blue light suppresses melatonin, which is important for protecting your eggs when close to ovulation. Adequate melatonin production is needed for quality eggs.
6. Sperm Count
In men, sleep deprivation can affect the sperm maturation process. Sperm that is not as healthy is not as likely to fertilize eggs and can cause miscarriage.
7. Erectile Dysfunction
Sleep deprivation can reduce a man’s sex drive, make it difficult for him to perform or get an erection. Lack of sleep reduces energy and increases tension. The “tense tiredness” that occurs, as a result, can lead to erectile dysfunction. Men are often reluctant to seek medical attention for issues like lowered sexual performance, which means it goes undiagnosed and untreated.
7 Ways To Improve Sleep And Fertility
One in three people in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, but there are some tips that may help you to get more sleep:
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
Set a specific time to go to bed each night and wake up each morning. Unwind before bed by taking a relaxing bath, avoiding electronics and maybe even having a light snack.
2. Create a Restful Environment
Before bed, turn down the thermostat. Studies show the best temperature for sleep is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius). Turn off the television and keep the room as dark and quiet as possible. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try making some changes to your bedding or even your mattress. A weighted blanket uses deep pressure stimulation to help increase melatonin.
3. Reduce Blue Light Exposure
Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, and while this may be helpful during the day, you’ll want to avoid it at night. If you have to use a laptop for work in the evening, consider an app that blocks blue light or wearing special glasses designed for blue light exposure.
4. Aim for 7-8 Hours of Sleep
Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The ideal hours to sleep are 10 pm and 7 am, but of course, this is largely dependent on your schedule. Relax your mind and wind down before bed.
5. Spend Time Outdoors
Spending an hour in sunlight can help with your ability to fall asleep. If you can’t dedicate a full hour outdoors, try breaking it up into increments. Have lunch outside, take an evening walk, and play with your pet outside.
6. Exercise Daily
There is solid evidence that shows exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality. Moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow-wave (deep) sleep you get. Try incorporating gentle, moderate exercises into your daily routine.
7. Get Expert Support
We want to help you in your fertility journey in every possible way. Reach out for expert support and join The Fertility Club. We take the guesswork away, using a proven system that has helped many couples get pregnant, and give you a specific plan that fixes your fertility issues. We help couples to get pregnant, even when it feels like they’ve tried everything else.
A restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep goes a long way in improving your overall quality of life. The idea that sleep plays a role in your fertility is well-founded. By making sure you and your partner are doing all that you can to promote a healthy lifestyle and get adequate sleep, you can boost your odds of conceiving.
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