Put the Sleep and Infertility Link to Rest
Do you get 8 hours of sleep at night? If not, read on. The quantity and quality of your sleep affects your health, mood, hormones and fertility. And fertility specialists are starting to wake up and take notice!
Los Altos-based reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Deborah A. Metzger, tells Attain Fertility that she questions all of her patients about their sleep habits. Metzger recommends that women sleep 8 to 9 hours each night in order to boost fertility.
Sleep does your body good!
While we sleep, our bodies are busy repairing cells and regulating our hormones, among many other processes. One special hormone, leptin, is a key link between sleep and fertility.
Leptin affects ovulation, and women need adequate sleep for proper leptin production. When leptin production is compromised, menstrual cycles are disrupted.
Dr. Tracy Latz, a psychiatrist in North Carolina, tells Attain Fertility that insomnia affects our hormones and potentially causes premature aging.
Sleep affects fertility hormones including progesterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
A cure for the moody blues
While it’s speculated that stress does not cause infertility, an infertility diagnosis can create tremendous stress that affects mood, sleep, and fertility.
When people are under chronic stress, their sleep habits are affected. Feelings of anxiety and depression can arise. Studies show that fertility patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression have lower rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) success.
Dr. Latz says that cortisol levels are often affected by the stress of our daily hectic lives. High cortisol levels prevent us from relaxing and getting quality sleep.
To combat the negative effects of cortisol and stress, try acupuncture, yoga and/or psychotherapy. These interventions are aimed at reducing stress and have been shown to increase rates of conception among infertility patients.
Do you work the “infertility shift”?
If you work the night shift, you may have a much harder time getting pregnant. Findings show that night shift workers have irregular menstrual cycles that can cause problems with conception.
Why does this happen? Our bodies are run by an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Regular patterns of light and dark help to keep our circadian rhythm functioning normally.
Night shift workers may run into problems with their circadian rhythm.
“The circadian rhythm controls the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and cortisol (a stress hormone),” Metzger explains. “Night shift workers are constantly shifting their circadian rhythm, resulting in the same type of 'jet lag' that we associate with traveling to and from different time zones.”
Let the sun shine in
Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) is a form of depression that is triggered by a seasonal reduction of bright sunlight in certain areas of the globe. For some people, this lack of sunlight that often happens during winter can affect both moods and sleep habits.
To counteract SAD, many sleep doctors recommend daily sunlight exposure. Sleep doctors claim that one hour of daily sunlight, even received in small segments each day, can help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms for a good night’s sleep.
Bright light may also affect fertility. According to Dr. Daniel Kripke, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, it has been shown that bright light corrects menstrual irregularities. “Bright light may promote ovulation, although therapeutic use of bright light to restore fertility is still under investigation.”
Latz tells Attain Fertility that a structure in the brain called the pineal gland is instrumental in regulating hormonal balances in our body based on our length of exposure to daylight.
“Modern man has a more chaotic light exposure with the advent of technology such as the electric light bulb, computers, video games and television,” says Latz.
Exposure to artificial light can inhibit good sleep. To reduce the negative health effects of artificial lights in your environment, turn off the TV and computer several hours before bed, and reduce the glare of electronic equipment in your bedroom at night, including your alarm clock.
Need more sleep and fertility tips?
- Be consistent in your sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Don’t sleep in on the weekends, no matter how tired you feel.
- If you do nap, stop. You may be getting too much sleep during the day, upsetting your sleep cycle.
- Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Talk to your doctor to see if any of your medications interfere with your sleep.
- Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and have a light snack an hour or two before bedtime. Dim the lights and keep your bedroom around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you still have trouble sleeping, see a sleep expert.
Reviewed in 2010 by Daniel F. Kripke, M.D: Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry. University of California, San Diego,
Tracy Latz, M.D., M.S. Psychiatrist: Shift Your Life, LLC, and Deborah Metzger, PhD, MD. Gynecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist: Harmony Women's Health
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Stress and Infertility
- NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep
- Pulling Down the Moon: iRest Sleeping Your Way to Fertility (the Yoga Way)