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?
These days it seems like everyone suffers bouts of insomnia at one point or another. According to a study by the CDC, one third of all Americans suffers from a chronic lack of sufficient sleep. Chronic loss of sleep is connected more to the stress and anxiety you’re experiencing in your life than anything else. In order to overcome your insomnia, there are some things you can do (more on that in a minute).
The Physical Toll of Not Getting Those ZZZZ’s
Ongoing lack of ZZZZ’s takes a physical toll in many different ways. You response time is affected which leads to poor decision making and, often, accidents. Here are some other ways chronic sleep deprivation impacts your life:
- Trouble with short and long-term memory
- Impaired concentration
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased risk for diabetes and heart disease
- Weight gain
- Balance and coordination
- Lowered libido (sex drive)
Sleep and Fertility
Both men and women experience lowered fertility when they are sleep deprived. Even just a few nights of not getting the proper rest can interfere with hormone production and stress response. In both men and women the same part of the brain that regulates the hormones that are involved in sleeping and being awake (cortisol and melatonin) is also the part that triggers the hormones involved in reproduction.
The hormones that trigger sperm to mature and are responsible for triggering ovulation are tied to your sleep-wake pattern. In a woman who is sleep-deprived, for example, the disruption can interfere with the hormones that trigger ovulation as it determines the menstrual cycle. Not getting enough sleep can disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause irregular periods, making pregnancy more difficult.
In more indirect ways, a lack of sleep puts you at risk for certain chronic conditions, as shown above. Diabetes can interfere with fertility, as can obesity. Stress becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t sleep because of the stress and anxiety in your life (including trying to conceive) and your lack of sleep causes stress and anxiety to become more pronounced. When your body is under stress, it’s hard-wired to conserve your strength as part of the innate fight-or-flight response. This may inhibit ovulation or cause irregular periods.
How Much Sleep is Necessary?
In order to ensure that your personal sleep needs are being met you should strive to get more than 6 hours of sleep, but less than 9 hours. Too much sleep can also interfere with fertility. A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation discovered women undergoing IVF, who earned between seven and eight hours of sleep, were 25% more successful in conceiving than those who got nine hours of sleep each night. Those who experienced fewer than seven hours were 15% less likely to become pregnant.
Follow These Suggestions For Improved Sleep
Life happens, and along with it so does insomnia. Here are some suggestions to ensure you’re getting a restorative night’s sleep and reaping the benefits:
- Get some form of aerobic exercise (one that elevates your heart rate temporarily) every day. Aim for 30 minutes, preferably outside. Even a simple activity like walking for half an hour will improve your sleep.
- Have a consistent bedtime. This is especially important when you’re trying to conceive. Going to bed early one night, then staying up until dawn the next can confuse your body clock. Strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day-even the weekends!
- Set the stage for a comfortable night’s sleep by keeping your bedroom dark and cool.
- Have a strict “no screens” rule for 30 minutes before bed. Put your devices in a drawer in another room if necessary.
- Unwind and relax before bed. Take a bath, sip some tea, read a book, listen to some relaxing music or find a relaxing way to signal your mind and body that bedtime is near.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine at least 7 hours before bedtime.
Healthy Habits for Life
A restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep can go a long way in improving your quality of life overall. The role sleep plays in your fertility is well-founded. Making sure you and your partner are doing all that you can to promote a healthy lifestyle, including avoiding excess alcohol, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise, will not only boost your odds of becoming pregnant, but will give you a foundation for a long and healthy life for you and your family.