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Sleep and fertility: How lack of sleep can negatively affect your chances of conceiving

Mar 27, 2023 12:42 PM IST

Are you struggling with fertility issues? Lack of sleep could be the culprit. Check out how your sleeping habits affects your chances of conceiving and tips to improve your sleeping schedules.

Several lifestyle habits interfere with one’s ability to get pregnant. Fertility rates are affected by detrimental habits such as smoking, drinking, and poor diet, as well as conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc. However, have you ever thought that your sleeping patterns, too, have a considerable impact on your fertility? Sleep is crucial for one's physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, and sleep disorders are now recognized to have a role in a number of illnesses that affect both men and women equally. In fact, deep sleep is the period when the body works on tissue repair and new cell growth. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to more than stress and anxiety and can hinder your fertility journey significantly. (Also read: Lifestyle habits that impact fertility, reduce sperm count or sperm quality )

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to more than stress and anxiety and can hinder your fertility journey significantly.(Unsplash )

Dr Sandeep Talwar, Infertility Specialist in Vasant Vihar, Nova IVF Fertility, shared with HT Lifestyle, the significant link between sleep and fertility and tips to improve sleeping schedules for those who are struggling with infertility issues.

How sleep affects fertility:

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The most significant element that sleep can impact in terms of fertility is hormone production. Lack of sleep enables uneven hormone production, with your body producing certain hormones in heaps while others in scarcity, which has an adverse effect on fertility. Several studies illustrate that sleep disturbances have also been linked to ovulatory dysfunction, menstrual irregularities, and impaired fertility in women, as well as lower sperm count and abnormal sperm morphology in men. A hormonal imbalance can also lead to a decrease in libido. Such chemical changes further create a barrier in your relationships.

In addition, sleep deprivation causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which is harmful to overall health and can disrupt estrogen, testosterone, and other reproductive hormone levels. It is important to understand that the area of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones (like melatonin and cortisol) also triggers the release of reproductive hormones on a daily basis.

Melatonin, a hormone produced by our body in the dark, regulates our sleeping and waking cycles. It is a powerful antioxidant that also protects eggs as they approach ovulation by protecting them from circulating free radicals and other harmful entities that can impair egg quality and reduce pregnancy chances. Too much light, particularly from cell phones and television, can disrupt our bodies' melatonin cycles and decrease the viability of the eggs.

Moreover, consistent sleep deprivation may have an effect on the release of luteinizing hormone, or LH — the hormone that causes ovulation.

What is the appropriate duration of sleep?

To ensure that adequate sleep needs are met, 6-7 hours of sleep is recommended, but not more than 9 hours. Oversleeping can also be harmful to fertility. According to a recent National Sleep Foundation study, women undergoing IVF who had a sleep schedule of about 7-8 hours per night were 25% more likely to conceive than those who slept nine hours per night.

Those, whose sleeping schedules crunched down to less than seven hours were 15% less likely to become pregnant. Therefore, seven to nine hours of sleep per night may be the crucial takeaway for a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Circadian rhythm and its importance:

Our bodies maintain an internal clock known as the 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 the 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 issues. Women who work night shifts are more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles, which can lead to infertility.

Tips to improve your sleeping schedules:

1. Exercise: Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes per day will not only enhance your physical health but also help you sleep. Get loose and burn some calories during the day to ensure a good night's sleep every night.

2. Consistent bedtime: This is especially crucial when trying to conceive. Going to bed early one night and staying up until dawn the next can cause your body clock to become confused. Every day, try to hit the hay early and wake up at the same time. Strive to maintain consistency on weekends too!

3. Away from the screen: The perils of blue light are one too many 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. Adjust lighting: It is easier to fall asleep in a quiet and dark room. Bright light should be avoided during the hours leading up to bedtime.

5. Leave the gap between stimulants and sleep: Nicotine and alcohol also have a brain-stimulating effect that takes hours to wean off, making sleep initiation difficult. Similarly, limit the consumption of caffeine in the evenings.

6. Unwind and relax (A calming bedtime routine): Treat yourself to a bubbly 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 connected. A good night's sleep every night can significantly improve your overall quality of life.

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