How many times has someone told you that the amount of sleep you get each night has an impact on your overall health? Whoever has told you this isn’t wrong – sleep has a significant effect on both your physical and mental health. Being well-rested gives you the mind and mood boost you need to power through the day, while not sleeping enough can put you at a greater risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, and can even shorten your life expectancy. Along with these crucial elements of our health, the amount of sleep you get each night may also impact your fertility. As a reproductive endocrinologist, it’s part of my job to encourage healthy habits for all of my patients, including the promotion of a full night of sleep. Read on to learn more about how sleep is intertwined with your reproductive health and your fertility.
Sleep and Reproductive Hormones
Our brains are complex and powerful- their release of reproductive hormones is an essential part of the conception process. Different parts of the brain regulate different types of hormones, and surprisingly, the same part of the brain that controls sleep hormones such as melatonin and cortisol is responsible for the daily release of reproductive hormones. A clear link between these two factors hasn’t yet been found, but it’s definitely something to be aware of. Sleep patterns are also tied in with the hormones responsible for ovulation and the sperm-maturation process. For women, if the release of these hormones becomes inconsistent due to a lack of a normal and consistent sleeping schedule, the menstrual irregularity that follows can make it more difficult to conceive.
Sleep, Shift Work, and Hormones
Studies have been done to find the correlation between sleep and fertility issues. The 14 studies conducted between 1969 and 2013 revealed that women who work non-traditional hours (and thus experience disrupted sleep) have higher rates of reproductive issues. These issues include hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, increased difficulty getting pregnant, and higher rates of miscarriage and premature births. When patterns of ovarian and pituitary hormone secretion are disrupted, FSH concentrations can shift, which can lead to decreased amounts that impact fertility. These findings were labeled as more of an association than a causation, but it is clear that the disruption of circadian rhythms may play a role in fertility troubles.
Indirect Impacts of Lack of Sleep on Fertility
Aside from a hormonal connection, a lack of sleep can also have whole-body effects that make conception more difficult.
Increased Stress and Irritability
Anyone who has ever gotten a terrible night of sleep knows the negative impact this can have on your mood and mental health. If you are experiencing a lack of sleep on a regular basis, your mood will suffer, which can disrupt your relationship with your partner and make conception opportunities less common.
Increased Risk of Conditions that Affect Fertility
As I mentioned before, long-term lack and disruption of sleep can put you at a greater risk for diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. These conditions on their own can have an adverse effect on fertility – so ensuring that you get enough sleep each night can keep you healthy in a number of ways.
A consistent sleep schedule is a great place to start if you are looking to adopt some healthier habits on your journey towards conception. Future studies may have different suggestions for the association between sleep and reproductive health, but it’s helpful to stay aware of what has been found so far. If you have any questions about your reproductive health or fertility, please don’t hesitate to contact me today. I am passionate about providing as much information to my patients as possible, and I’d love to talk to you about any issues you may be experiencing and what can be done to help you.