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Can Lack of Sleep Affect Fertility? What the Science Says.

Updated: Jun 21, 2021


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.


Melatonin

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.


Luteinizing hormone

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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