Most people are aware that getting enough sleep is a big part of maintaining health. What many women who are trying to conceive may not realize is the link between fertility and sleep deprivation. It turns out that sleep is very important when it comes to fertility. So if you are doing everything else right and still having trouble conceiving, your sleep habits may be the missing piece of the puzzle. Keep reading to learn about the link between sleep and fertility, and how you can change your sleeping habits for the better.
How much sleep should you be getting?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average woman aged 30 to 60 gets about six hours and forty minutes of sleep each work night. Women in this age range really need to be getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Regularly getting an inadequate amount of sleep is known as sleep deprivation, and it can have serious health consequences.
How does sleep affect fertility?
Sleep deprivation can have profound negative effects on things such as hormones, memory, mood, digestion, alertness, concentration, immune function, and cell repair.
Sleep deprivation effects fertility by its effect on hormones in the body. The primary way that fertility is affected by sleep is through the hormone Leptin. Leptin is the hormone that is responsible for ovulation in women, adequate sleep in needed for proper Leptin production. If Leptin production is interrupted, the menstrual cycle can be disrupted. Sleep also affect other important fertility hormones including luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone.
There is a dispute to whether stress effects fertility, but one thing is known for sure is that stress does negatively affect sleep by raising the levels cortisol in the body. And because sleep affects fertility, stress does at least indirectly affect fertility.
Another way that sleep affects fertility is through the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep and wake cycle. The circadian rhythm is
What can you do to improve you sleep?
Missing your required number of sleep hours a night can impact your ability to conceive.
The average woman (30 to 60 years old) gets only 6 hours 41 minutes of sleep during the work week, according to the National Sleep Foundation, when she really needs 7 to 9 hours.
Sleep has a powerful influence on the body’s hormonal system, which controls a woman’s cycle and regulates ovulation.
Too little sleep leads to low leptin levels, the hormone responsible for appetite and which can impact ovulation.
Insomniacs have a significantly higher level of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropic, both of which can suppress a healthy fertility cycle.
The take-home message is clear: you could be doing “everything right” when it comes to preparing your body to conceive and bring a healthy baby to term. But with so much focus on external factors like your environment and what you put in your mouth, the time has come to add another aspect to this big equation: sleep.
While we sleep, our bodies are busy repairing cells and regulating our hormones, among many other processes. One special hormone, leptin, is a key link between sleep and fertility.
Leptin affects ovulation, and women need adequate sleep for proper leptin production. When leptin production is compromised, menstrual cycles are disrupted.
Dr. Tracy Latz, a psychiatrist in North Carolina, tells Attain Fertility that insomnia affects our hormones and potentially causes premature aging.
Sleep affects fertility hormones including progesterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
A cure for the moody blues
While it’s speculated that stress does not cause infertility, an infertility diagnosis can create tremendous stress that affects mood, sleep, and fertility.
When people are under chronic stress, their sleep habits are affected. Feelings of anxiety and depression can arise. Studies show that fertility patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression have lower rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) success.
Dr. Latz says that cortisol levels are often affected by the stress of our daily hectic lives. High cortisol levels prevent us from relaxing and getting quality sleep.
To combat the negative effects of cortisol and stress, try acupuncture, yoga and/or psychotherapy. These interventions are aimed at reducing stress and have been shown to increase rates of conception among infertility patients.
Do you work the “infertility shift”?
If you work the night shift, you may have a much harder time getting pregnant. Findings show that night shift workers have irregular menstrual cycles that can cause problems with conception.
Why does this happen? Our bodies are run by an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Regular patterns of light and dark help to keep our circadian rhythm functioning normally.
Night shift workers may run into problems with their circadian rhythm.
“The circadian rhythm controls the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and cortisol (a stress hormone),” Metzger explains. “Night shift workers are constantly shifting their circadian rhythm, resulting in the same type of ‘jet lag’ that we associate with traveling to and from different time zones.”
Let the sun shine in
Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) is a form of depression that is triggered by a seasonal reduction of bright sunlight in certain areas of the globe. For some people, this lack of sunlight that often happens during winter can affect both moods and sleep habits.
To counteract SAD, many sleep doctors recommend daily sunlight exposure. Sleep doctors claim that one hour of daily sunlight, even received in small segments each day, can help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms for a good night’s sleep.
Bright light may also affect fertility. According to Dr. Daniel Kripke, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, it has been shown that bright light corrects menstrual irregularities. “Bright light may promote ovulation, although therapeutic use of bright light to restore fertility is still under investigation.”
Latz tells Attain Fertility that a structure in the brain called the pineal gland is instrumental in regulating hormonal balances in our body based on our length of exposure to daylight.
“Modern man has a more chaotic light exposure with the advent of technology such as the electric light bulb, computers, video games and television,” says Latz.
Exposure to artificial light can inhibit good sleep. To reduce the negative health effects of artificial lights in your environment, turn off the TV and computer several hours before bed, and reduce the glare of electronic equipment in your bedroom at night, including your alarm clock.
Need more sleep and fertility tips?
Be consistent in your sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Don’t sleep in on the weekends, no matter how tired you feel.
If you do nap, stop. You may be getting too much sleep during the day, upsetting your sleep cycle.
Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Talk to your doctor to see if any of your medications interfere with your sleep.
Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and have a light snack an hour or two before bedtime. Dim the lights and keep your bedroom around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you still have trouble sleeping, see a sleep expert.
Research has also shown that night shift work can cause irregular menstruation in some women. Irregular menstruation is often considered a risk factor for fertility problems.
It has also been shown that gaining weight is directly linked to infertility. Studies have shown that lack of sleep is associated with weight gain and the body resisting insulin. Too much insulin is seen as a key factor in infertility because of all of the things that it can do to your body including increasing your risk of Type2 diabetes.
If you could improve your chances of conceiving and becoming a Mother or Father, regular sleep patterns is the easiest way to do that!
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Michelle Gordon and is a sleep expert who researches and writes about the topic of sleep.
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