Sleep + Fertility : Reproductive Health

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  • – Sleep deprivation plays a role in fertility, and EMF is a stressor to your natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin
  • – In men, lack of sleep results in lowered testosterone levels 
  • – In women, long term lack of sleep directly affects the release of LH, or luteinizing hormone – the hormone that triggers ovulation as part of regulating the menstruation cycle

When we’re constantly shifting from obligation to obligation, getting a good 8-9 hours of shuteye is a challenge that most of us face. This is even more relevant for couples that are currently struggling with infertility – who may experience extra stress outside of the norm. Sleep deprivation has been clearly linked to reduced chances of fertility because of its effect on hormonal balance. In both men and women, the part of the brain that regulates the sleep-wake hormones such as Melatonin and Cortisol are the same. This part also triggers a daily release of reproductive hormones that are integral for fertility. 

In women, lack of sleep actually suppresses melatonin production, while activating excessive HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) hormone production – which has been shown to result in early pregnancy loss and failed embryo implantation. If this sleep deprivation becomes long-term, women experience the increased release of LH (the luteinizing hormone), which triggers ovulation as part of regulating the menstrual cycle. The consequential menstrual irregularity means that it takes them longer to conceive. For women trying to conceive through IVF, sleeping becomes even more critical – a study even found that women that were undergoing IVF, and had from 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night were 25% more successful in conceiving compared to those who got less than 7 hours of sleep. If women replaced their sleep with work at night, which has been notoriously dubbed the “infertility shift”, they were at higher risk of miscarriage, a study found. 

In men, lack of sleep had a similar effect on fertility levels due to the impact on those sleep-wake hormones – that in turn affect the reproductive hormones such as testosterone. Research found that reduced not only the sperm count but also the quality of sperm production. This study also found that every extra hour above 8-9 hours also reduced sperm count – demonstrating that sleeping too much or too little had a negative impact on men’s fertility. It’s compelling to note that the reduction in the number of hours that Americans had every night was consistent with the decreasing number of global sperm counts. 

Another factor to be aware of is stress: struggling to conceive is undoubtedly a challenging time, which can cause many couples to become more anxious – but this can feed into a vicious cycle. The stress/anxiety can prevent you from getting ample shuteye, and this only makes the effects of stress become more significant. This can also alert your body to go into fight or flight mode where you prioritize your resources, resulting in irregular periods and/or preventing ovulation. 

Most of us are aware of the harmful effects of prolonged use of devices due to their heightened levels of EMFs (electromagnetic field radiation) – but such EMFs also have an impact on a woman’s fertility. It actually suppressed the production of melatonin, which not only helps you sleep but also protects a woman’s eggs as they approach ovulation. And this is less than ideal because a compromised egg quality can make becoming pregnant even more difficult. 

With this in mind, prioritize getting adequate and quality sleep so you have the best chances of conceiving – through maintaining a consistent bedtime every night, reducing the usage of your devices, and trying to remain at peace as much as possible. 

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