Sleep and Infertility: How Sleep Disturbance Can Hurt Your Fertility Journey
As adults who are busy in our everyday lives, we tend to forget that sleep plays a major role in our overall health and well being. Oftentimes, we are so overwhelmed by the responsibilities that we forget to rest. However, we should never compromise quality sleep; especially if you are trying to boost your fertility.
Yes, as surprising as it may seem, sleep and fertility link to one another! Sleeping not only regulates the maintenance of healthy cells, it also refreshes and restores your brain and organ systems, including balancing all of your hormones; especially your reproductive hormones.
Beyond sleep’s impact on your overall health (and of course, the healthier you are, you get a better chance of conceiving), there have been studies which implicate that one’s sleep can greatly impact one’s fertility. For example, sleeping disorders usually contribute to a lot of other health problems. Specifically, for women, sleep deprivation can negatively affect their reproductive health.
Numerous research studies have shown that poor sleeping habits are associated with weight problems, menstrual disorders, inflammatory dysfunction, and mood issues. For those struggling with infertility, irritability, or mood issues can, in turn, strain your intimate relationships and lead to fewer opportunities for conception.
Sleep disturbance also greatly impacts the frequency and duration of menstruation, the health of pregnancies, incidence of postpartum depression, and menopausal transition, according to this research article from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
The hormones that are responsible for regulating reproduction, sperm production, and egg quality are closely related to your sleep cycle. In fact, one’s fertility is not only affected by the quantity and quality of their sleep, but also by their circadian rhythm!
What is the Circadian Rhythm?
Ever noticed that you tend to feel sleepy or energized around the same time every day? If your answer is yes, then you know how the circadian rhythm works! Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that runs within a special gland in your brain (the pineal gland) and regularly cycles between when you are sleepy or when you are alert. Circadian rhythm is also commonly known as the “sleep or wake cycle“.
Many of our body’s essential hormones peak while sleeping, especially during dawn or early morning hours. The United States’ Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) and Prevention has reported that people who are sleep deprived — a reality for more than one-third of Americans — tend to be more at risk of infertility. Research also suggests that women who are struggling with sleep, tend to be three to four times more likely to experience infertility.
The Role of Melatonin in Your Circadian Rhythm, and Fertility
Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, is also closely related to the circadian rhythm. In fact, melatonin helps in signaling your circadian rhythm that it is time to be resting. People who have sleep disorders, and those who work at night, have lower levels of melatonin. This is why melatonin supplementation for infertile patients may result in improved chances of conceiving.
Since melatonin greatly impacts your sleeping habits, I have come up with a list to help you increase your melatonin hormone levels, naturally.
- Get Some Sunlight — Sometimes, being chronically unexposed to the sun can confuse your sleep cycle, as the brain’s programming for our pineal gland and thus our circadian rhythm, is in part determined by being able to see the rise and fall (diurnal rhythm) of the sun.
- No Gadgets Before Sleep — Phones, tablets, and computers have blue light. Not only will blue light affect your eyesight, it also blocks melatonin release, by interfering with your body’s normal circadian rhythm. This is why scanning through your phone before bed, does not really help.
- Eat Melatonin Rich Food — Eating food that is rich in tryptophan will definitely help increase your melatonin levels. Tryptophan is found in protein, oats, chicken, and many more.
These small adjustments might be able to help you get better sleep which, can boost your chances of conceiving.
In a nutshell, quality sleep is highly essential in one’s overall health. The healthier you are, the higher your chances of conceiving. This is why you should never compromise your sleep. Sleeping does not only “refresh” your thoughts and your muscles but it restores your cells, allows your body systems to reboot and leaves room for your key reproductive hormones to begin to peak when they should. Lack of sleep, however, does the total opposite of this.
Knowledge is like gold for any individual or couple who is in the process of trying to conceive. It is imperative to explicate the effects of sleep on your own fertility journey, by assessing your lifestyle habits. If you believe that you or your loved one may have a sleep disorder, especially if you are also struggling to conceive, addressing the sleep disorder is critically important. This includes being evaluated by a sleep specialist and completing a sleep study.
The success of your fertility journey is dependent on various lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity, vices, stress management, and the most basic one, quality of sleep. Start winning on these checklists so that you can optimize not only your fertility but also your overall well-being!
Dr. Duke is the Physician Founder, Medical Director and Lab Director of the Nevada Fertility Institute in Sunny Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.