Does sleep influence fertility?
Sleep plays a critical role in all our lives, affecting quality of life, health, and - by extension - fertility.
Both women and men experience impaired fertility when they are sleep deprived, and even just a few nights of not getting a decent rest can interfere with hormone production and stress response.
Getting enough good quality sleep (7-9 hours a night) helps your body regulate hormones, including the hormones that govern reproduction.
When it gets dark, our bodies produces melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles.
What's important to know is that the same area of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones (such as melatonin and cortisol) also triggers a daily release of reproductive hormones.
Melatonin is a potent antioxidant that also plays a role protecting eggs near ovulation, guarding them against circulating free-radicals and other damaging entities that can harm egg quality and chances of pregnancy.
Getting too much light, especially from cell phones and TV can mess up our body’s melatonin cycles and potentially impact egg quality.
The hormones that trigger ovulation (and sperm maturation) are thought to be linked to sleep-wake patterns.
A consistent lack of sleep may directly affect the release of luteinizing hormone, or LH — the hormone that triggers ovulation.
Sleep and fertility: what research has revealed
Studies have found that women getting less than seven hours of sleep are 15% less likely to get pregnant than women who got 7 - 8 hours a night.
Meanwhile, women undergoing IVF who got seven to eight hours of sleep were 25% more likely to get pregnant than women who got 9 hours or more.
So the sweet spot 8 hours sleep a night is backed up by more than convention.
Hormones also react to when you're getting that sleep: working at night or working rotating shifts may have an impact on fertility and miscarriage, according to research.
Tips for getting better quality sleep
According to a study by the CDC, one third of Americans suffers from a chronic lack of sufficient sleep.
These science-based biohacks will help you get a good night’s rest:
1. SHUT OUT THE BLUE LIGHT
Our brains take blue-colored light as a signal it’s time to wake up, which is why it’s so disruptive to our hormone cycles.
Try blue-light filtering glasses and quit screen time 2 hours before bed.
2. EMPTY YOUR MIND AND UNWIND
A bedtime ritual of meditation, reading or journaling can help deposit unwelcome thoughts from our minds and help us relax.
Meanwhile, during the day, taking enough fresh air and exercise supports our bodies to naturally release anxiety and stresses.
3. AVOID LIE-INS
Data shows that our bodies run optimally when we stick religiously to the same sleep-wake cycle, with the most important factor being when you wake up.
So even if you have a late night at the weekend, don’t be tempted to ‘catch up’ on sleep the next morning - set your alarm at the usual time and focus on getting back into a good pattern from the next day!
4. GET ENOUGH MAGNESIUM
Magnesium helps the body maintain levels of GABA (or gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that switches off wakefulness and helps calm the nervous system.
Avocados, nuts and legumes are great dietary sources of magnesium.
Read more on magnesium and fertility here.
Sleep Optimizing Checklist
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night
Find your natural circadian rhythm and work with it
Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule - even at the weekend
Cut out naps if you take them and you aren’t sleeping well at night
Sleep when it’s dark and try to avoid working night shifts
Spend some time in sunlight during the day
Take a warm bath or shower 90 mins before bed
Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing/meditation before bed
Invest in regular massages, or follow a self-massage tutorial
Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs
Avoid stimulants like caffeinated drinks and chocolate after 2pm
Avoid drinking a lot of liquid in the immediate hours before bed
Shut down electronic devices such as phone and laptop at least 2 hours before bed
Try wearing glasses that block blue light
Download an app such to block blue light on your laptop and phone
Discuss l-theanine and magnesium supplements with your doctor
Sleepify your bedroom
Keep your bedroom between 60-70°F (15-20°C)
Use dim red lights for night lights
Consider installing black out blinds, orthopaedic pillow and a medium firm mattress
Test out a weighted blanket
Use lavender scented drops or bags to fragrance your bedroom
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