Are you planning to get pregnant this year? If so, now’s a great time to begin establishing healthy sleep habits. Studies show that women who struggle to sleep well (between seven- and nine hours per night) or who work night shifts have a more challenging time getting pregnant, and poor sleep habits may compromise IVF success rates, as well.
Include “Sleep” as Part of Your TTC Lifestyle Protocol
According to sleep.org, “Circadian rhythms are biological patterns that follow a 24-hour cycle and are strongly guided by exposure to light and dark. Most creatures, including plants, animals, and humans are governed and affected by circadian rhythms. While the most obvious circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle, another major function of the body clock includes hormone secretion.”
Healthy sleep balances hormone production
While studies are still new in this area, there is compelling evidence that sleep deprivation or disrupted circadian rhythms negatively impact fertility.
For example, in some studies, mice, and rats subjected to lack of sleep or who were forced awake during the night and allowed to sleep by day (like shift workers) experienced lower implantation rates and higher miscarriage rates. Researchers identified that sleep disturbances interrupted routine reproductive hormone production.
Other circadian rhythm studies, mainly involving female shift workers, showed that women who worked night or swing shifts had higher rates of:
- Menstrual irregularities
- More painful periods/PMS
- Increased lengths of time to conceive
- Not conceiving
- Low birth weights
So, in addition to negatively impacting female fertility, poor sleep habits also compromise a baby’s wellbeing.
Poor sleep compromises other important fertility factors
One of the advisors in our post Preparing Your Body For Pregnancy is, “Clean up your lifestyle.” Your lifestyle habits are intricately linked to reproductive health, including healthy sleep habits. Even without a direct effect on reproductive hormones, lack of sleep is linked to:
- Moodiness and depression
- Lack of libido
- Fatigue (that makes you choose sleep over sex)
- Reduced immune system function
- Heightened inflammation (read Mediterranean Diet & IVF Success to learn more about the link between reduced inflammation and higher fertility rates)
By ensuring you’re getting adequate sleep each night, you help your body to remain balanced and rejuvenated, which has a significant impact on physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
Too much is as bad as not enough
Contrary to what you might think, this is not a “there’s no such thing as too much” scenario. Researchers following sleep patterns and reproduction determined too much is equally as harmful as not enough.
The studies cited by sleep.org divided sleepers into three categories, based on how many hours they slept on average:
- Short-time sleepers (4 to 6 hours of sleep)
- Moderate-time sleepers (7 to 9 hours of sleep)
- Long-time sleepers (9 to 11 hours of sleep)
Researchers found, “Fertilization rates were similar across the three groups, but pregnancy rates were around 7% higher in moderate sleepers compared to short sleepers and about 10% higher in moderate sleepers than long sleepers.”
Lack of sleep also risks male fertility
It turns out that establishing healthy sleep habits is a couple’s affair. Lack of sleep also compromises testosterone levels, which negatively impacts male fertility.
The majority of the testosterone produced in a man’s body is made at night. One study showed that male testosterone levels dipped by as much as 10% after just a week of lost sleep (the men in the study were restricted to five hours each night). Low testosterone levels lead to reduced libido and causes diminished sperm quality and quantity.
5 Ways to Improve Sleep Habits While TTC
Five simple ways to re-establish healthy habits include:
- Asking an employer to switch shifts if you are a night or swing shift worker while TTC.
- Establish consistent “go to bed/wake up” times, even on the weekends, to reset and honor your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Create a nighttime “wind-down” routine that helps your mind/body relax and head into a more restful sleep (bath, listening to soothing music, reading a book rather than reading on a gadget, using essential oils, etc.).
- Dim the lights and remain screen-free for at least 30 minutes before bedtime to initiate melatonin production (your body perceives almost all light, including blue light, as “daylight” and shuts down melatonin production accordingly).
- Refrain from drinking caffeine, alcohol, or using other stimulants for at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
Make healthy sleep habits a priority as you prepare to get pregnant. Is it taking longer than you planned to conceive? Schedule an appointment with Northern California Fertility Medical Center to find out why.