We know that sleep is essential for allowing our bodies time to rest and recharge. In many ways, sleep is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. But with all the distractions and stressors coming at us each day, achieving a restful night’s sleep is not always easy. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one in three Americans are not getting enough sleep.
Our multi-part series, Sleep Well, examines the power of sleep and how it relates to our health throughout our lifespan – from our menstrual cycles to fertility, and menopause – and offers tangible advice on how to get better sleep tonight. In this issue, we dig into the surprising connection between sleep and fertility.
Did you know that sleep plays an active role in regulating our reproductive hormones?
The truth is that as we sleep, our bodies are actively working. Each night our endocrine system, which regulates our hormones, is busy producing some of the key hormones involved in conception – estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
While research into the exact relationship between fertility and sleep is still ongoing, various scientific studies have recently been published which reveal a likely connection.
For starters, research has shown that over time a lack of sleep (or sleep disturbances) may alter the production of key reproductive hormones, and this irregularity may make it harder to conceive. These findings were further supported by a study published in the journal of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology which found that working a night-shift can impact a woman’s circadian rhythm and could decrease her fertility.
The importance of sleep is also often discussed in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). Some women undergoing IVF report feeling fatigued, which is often due to the increased levels of progesterone in their body during this time. Research presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s Annual Meeting on patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) found that seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal for conception.
Aside from the scientific research, it is commonly known that a lack of sleep may also lead to irritability, mood swings, and fatigue – all of which can be a mood killer in the bedroom for those trying to conceive.
That’s right, women are not alone. In fact, sleep is equally as important to a man’s reproductive health as it is to a woman’s health. This in large part because testosterone, a critical hormone involved in sperm production, is produced daily during sleep.
Clinical studies have shown that sleep deprivation can impair sperm production and sperm mobility. Similarly, research from Boston University’s School of Public Health found that getting too little or too much sleep (less than six hours or more than nine hours a night) can make it harder for men to conceive with their partner.
While partners may have different sleep schedules, it can be helpful in any relationship to check-in on one another and ensure both of you are getting adequate rest to help boost your fertility.
While this topic is still being studied, overall, it is recommended that couples who are trying to conceive aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
Of course, everyone is different, and your needs may vary from season to season. As always, it is important to listen to your body and do what feels right for you, and share your questions or concerns with your doctor as a part of an ongoing dialogue for life-long health.
Sleep specialists are constantly looking into new technologies, treatments, and lifestyle adjustments that can help us to rest better each night. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are some simple tricks you can try to practice better sleep hygiene:
Overall, experts agree that getting proper sleep is an important aspect of caring for our overall mental and physical well-being and it should be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to fertility.
Of course, fertility can be a complex science. If you are trying to conceive, it’s important to discuss any new lifestyle changes or medications with your fertility specialist who can help you to map out your goals and establish a holistic fertility plan that’s best for you.
If you are the 1 in 10 couples having trouble getting pregnant, you are not alone. Women under the age 35 are recommended to see a fertility specialist after trying to conceive for twelve months without success, while women over 35 are encouraged to seek help after just six months.
A reproductive endocrinologist trained in supporting couples with infertility can help you to explore your options. Our fertility partners are here to help you through each step!
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