We still don’t know a lot about the relationship between sleep and fertility
When you’re trying to conceive, you know that eating right, taking the right vitamins and getting busy in the bedroom are keys to being successful. But that other thing you do in the bedroom, sleep, may also have a profound impact on making a baby.
However, the link between sleep and fertility is still largely unknown. This lack of information is surprising given that sleep is such a critical component to a human’s physical and emotional health and well-being. Among both men and women, it is well established that sleep disorders contribute to many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression and anxiety. Specific to women, sleep disturbances appear to have a relationship to premenstrual symptoms, postpartum depression and a woman’s transition into menopause.
But does sleep affect fertility? Beyond a notion of a possible relationship between sleep problems and reproductive health, little research has been conducted to understand which form of sleep disturbance is related to fertility and which aspects of fertility, such as ovulation or egg quality, are particularly affected. And to make the waters even murkier, it’s also possible that this relationship could be reciprocal. In other words, are sleep disturbances causing your fertility issues, or are reproductive processes interfering with your sleep? We still don’t have all the information.
Your circadian rhythm controls the release of reproductive hormones
Your circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates many physical, mental and behavioral changes in our bodies. These changes primarily respond to light and dark in our environment. For instance, your body responds naturally to night darkness by releasing melatonin to help you fall asleep. Your biological timekeeper also affects hunger, thirst, body temperature and mood.
In addition, several reproductive hormones seem to have daily release cycles based on your circadian rhythm. The same part of our brain that regulates hormones responsible for our sleep-wake cycle also triggers the release of reproductive hormones. As a result, lack of sleep or being off of your circadian rhythm cycle could interfere with the hormones linked to many of our reproductive processes.
To date, the majority of evidence for the link between sleep and fertility has been in the area of women working shift work at night. Adverse fertility outcomes, like menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea (pain during the menstrual cycle), problems with conception and increased miscarriage, all coincided with shift work.
Strategies to get more sleep
Sleep is often one of our most precious commodities that we never seem to get enough of. And while we don’t know all the data yet about the relationship between sleep and fertility, it seems intuitive that getting more of the right kind of sleep will help those trying to make a baby.
- Have a regular time for going to bed and try to wake up at the same time every day.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed to clear your mind of any anxieties you may be holding onto. Reading a book or doing a crossword can help steer your thoughts away from the stresses of your day.
- Avoid electronic devices in bed. The blue light emitted from these devices have been linked to sleep disturbances.
- Getting enough sunlight to boost your Vitamin D during the day can also help regulate your sleep cycle.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime. While that extra glass of wine may help you fall asleep, too much alcohol tends to disrupt sleep by limiting the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. On the flip side, too much caffeine before going to bed can make it hard to fall asleep by delaying the timing of your internal body clock.
Fertility Answers is researching the effects of sleep during IVF
Having a healthy circadian rhythm is important for many of our bodily functions, and it seems that fertility is no exception. Fertility Answers’s Sleep and IVF Study aims to collect accurate data on sleep to gain an understanding on the exact relationship between sleep, egg quality and fertility. Our study monitors patients going through an IVF cycle through a Fitbit device they wear at night throughout the cycle so we can track their sleep during the egg stimulation to see what we can learn.
Learn more about how to improve your chances of conceiving by contacting us for an appointment.