Many lifestyle habits interfere with the ability to conceive. Fertility rates are affected by harmful habits such as smoking, alcoholism, and poor diet, as well as conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc. However, have you ever thought that your sleeping habits also have a significant impact? On your fertility? Sleep is important to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, and sleep disorders are now recognized as playing a role in many diseases that affect both men and women alike. In fact, deep sleep is the period when the body works on tissue repair and the growth of new cells. Chronic sleep deprivation is more linked to stress and anxiety and can significantly disrupt your fertility journey. (Also read: Lifestyle habits that affect fertility, reduce sperm count or sperm quality )
Dr. Sandeep Talwar, Infertility Specialist at Vasant Vihar, Nova IVF Fertility, shares with HT Lifestyle, the important link between sleep and fertility and tips for improving sleep schedules for those struggling with infertility issues.
How sleep affects fertility:
The most important factor influencing sleep in terms of fertility is hormone production. Lack of sleep enables uneven hormone production, causing your body to overproduce some hormones and lack others, which can adversely affect fertility. Several studies have shown that sleep disturbances are associated with ovulatory dysfunction, menstrual irregularities, and poor fertility in women, as well as low sperm count and abnormal sperm morphology in men. Hormonal imbalances can also cause a decrease in libido. Such chemical changes put more strain on your relationship.
In addition, lack of sleep causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which are harmful to overall health and can disrupt the levels of estrogen, testosterone, and other reproductive hormones. It is important to understand that the area of the brain that regulates sleep-inducing hormones (such as melatonin and cortisol) also triggers the release of reproductive hormones on a daily basis.
Melatonin, the hormone our bodies produce in the dark, regulates our sleep and wake cycles. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects eggs from circulating free radicals and other harmful elements that can degrade egg quality and reduce the chances of pregnancy even when they get close to ovulation. Too much light, especially from cell phones and televisions, can disrupt our body’s melatonin cycle and reduce egg viability.
Furthermore, persistent lack of sleep can affect the release of luteinizing hormone, or LH – the hormone that causes ovulation.
What is the appropriate duration of sleep?
To ensure adequate sleep requirements are met, 6-7 hours of sleep is recommended, but not more than 9 hours. Too much sleep can also be detrimental to fertility. According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, women undergoing IVF who sleep on a schedule of 7-8 hours per night are 25% more likely to get pregnant than those who sleep nine hours per night.
A sleep schedule of less than seven hours was associated with a 15 percent lower chance of getting pregnant. Therefore, seven to nine hours of sleep per night can be important for a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Circadian rhythm and its importance:
Our bodies maintain an internal clock known as a circadian rhythm. If the body is exposed to a consistent pattern of light and dark, the circadian rhythm will function properly. However, a change in pattern is likely to leave an adverse effect. Therefore, people who work night shifts or alternate between different types of shifts are more likely to experience circadian rhythm problems. Women who work night shifts are more likely to have irregular periods, which can lead to infertility.
Tips to improve your sleep schedule:
1. Exercise: 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day not only improves your physical health but also helps you sleep. Skip and burn some calories during the day to ensure a good night’s sleep.
2. Bedtime Consistency: This is especially important when trying to conceive. Going to bed early one night and staying up late the next morning can throw off your body clock. Every day, try to graze early and get up at the same time. Try to maintain consistency even on weekends!
3. Away from the screen: The dangers of blue light are too numerous to ignore. Restrict yourself from using any smart devices at least 30 minutes before bed and limit their use during the day as well.
4. Lighting Adjustment: Sleep is easier in a quiet and dark room. Avoid bright light in the hours leading up to bedtime.
5. Leave a gap between stimulation and sleep: Nicotine and alcohol also have brain-stimulating effects that make sleep onset difficult and take hours to wean off. Also, limit caffeine consumption in the evening.
6. Relax and unwind (a calming bedtime routine): Treat yourself to a bubble bath, sip some chamomile tea, read a book, listen to relaxing music, or find another relaxing way to calm your body and mind.
It is clear that sleep and fertility are inextricably linked. Getting a good night’s sleep every night can improve your overall quality of life.