Sleep and Fertility

Are you getting enough sleep?

Awareness of the importance of sleep to overall health is growing, and researchers are beginning to make some connections to the role sleep plays in fertility.

A 2018 study compared the infertility rates for a group of women with a diagnosed sleep disorder and a group of women without any diagnosed sleep disorders. Researchers discovered that when age and other health issues were factored in, women with sleep disorders were 3.7 times more likely to suffer from infertility.

Analysis of previous studies also revealed that women who work shifts outside the normal 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. range are more likely to suffer from disrupted menstrual cycles and miscarriages. Even exposure to artificial light may impact fertility.

For men, lack of sleep has been tied to 29 percent lower concentration of sperm in their semen.

Why might lack of quality sleep impact fertility? The answer may be melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that makes you drowsy and helps you fall asleep. In women, melatonin also controls progesterone and estrogen levels, two hormones that are key in reproduction.

The release of melatonin is triggered by a part of the brain located directly behind the optic nerve. If the optic nerve detects too much light, it may not release melatonin. Reduced melatonin not only impacts sleep, it impacts regulation of progesterone and estrogen.

Lack of sleep also has secondary health effects that may impact fertility. Lack of sleep can trigger stress responses in the body, anxiety and depression, loss of sex drive, heart issues and inflammation.  

So how can those seeking to grow their family ensure they are getting a health amount and quality of sleep? These simple steps may help:

Practice good light hygiene. Turn off all electronics – especially televisions and smart phones – at least 30 minutes before turning in for the night. Use room-darkening shades if necessary. The glow from artificial light sources can be especially disruptive to sleep cycles.

Wind down. Dim the lights and unwind with some quiet reading. Herbal tea might help you relax but avoid alcohol.

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise makes melatonin more effective and will help you fall asleep.

Watch what you eat and when you eat it. Maintain a healthy, fiber-rich low-fat diet, and avoid eating within a few hours of bedtime. Eating too close to bed time can cause heartburn and other discomfort as your body digests.

Consider a sleep study. Talk to your doctor if you struggle with snoring, insomnia, frequent sleep interruptions, or anything else that might suggest you may have an underlying condition interfering with your ability to sleep. Sleep studies are often covered by insurance.

Do you have questions or concerns about how sleep may be impacting your health and fertility? We’ll be glad to discuss.

Questions about your exercise habits and how they might be impacting your fertility? Be sure to discuss them with your doctor at your next appointment.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Robert K. Hunter II at Kentucky Fertility Institute, please visit here

Author Info

Jenny Shanks