Sleep and Fertility: Do you need to sleep more… or less?María Arellano
Sleep deprivation in the US is on the rise. And tough work schedules can be behind infertility, especially when it’s shift work, so say the experts.
On the other hand, there is such a thing as sleeping too much when dealing with infertility.
In this post we will look into the science behind the relationship between sleep and fertility.
Sleep and your fertility
In comparison to other health factors that intervene in conception, little is known about the relationship between sleep and fertility.
Whether you are starting to plan your family or you are trying to understand why your past attempts have been unsuccessful, this post will hopefully give you a clearer idea of why sleep should be taken seriously when your fertility is at stake.
Family planning and fertility awareness at the start gate
When we are beginning to plan a family, fertility awareness leads us to question what we need to have in line (what needs to be working well and top-notch!) in order to give our future children the best health outcome possible, as well as keep our own super mama health up to bar.
And yes, fertility awareness includes sleep!
Sleep and combating infertility
Keep in mind that a lot of factors contribute to your optimal fertility and some of these are not within your control.
The idea behind fertility awareness is to help you clarify what is happening within your body.
Talking about fertility, looking into how our bodies work and why, is NOT to be used to focus all of your thoughts on what is wrong or is not working.
Past studies in – health science- have shown that multiple factors contribute to an infertility associated downward spiral of depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and other factors that contribute to psychosocial distress.
If you are going through a process of confrontation with infertility, beware the dangers of letting infertility define who you are and take a look at our post on effects of stress on fertility.
Shift work, Your circadian rhythm and fertility
If you are a woman doing shift work (the employment practice used to provide service 24 hours of the day, each day of the week) it may mean that you are at higher risk of infertility.
The night shift is the enemy of fertility!
This is because flipping your body’s wakeful hours from day to night and back again affects your circadian rhythm and this in turn wreaks havoc with your menstrual cycle.
“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.”
In conclusion, new mama’s-to-be beware the dangers of the night shift and of traveling through different time zones with too much frequency.
Your menstrual cycle will benefit from regular scheduled sunlight hours.
Here’s a classification of sleep disturbances
Classification of sleep disturbances according to William Schwartz et al (1987) as referenced by René Cormier (1990).
- Insomnias: Disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep (Includes sleep apnea)
- Hypersomnias: Disorders of excessive somnolence (Excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Disorders of the sleep–wake schedule (Jet lag, work shift)
- Parasomnias: Dysfunctions associated with sleep, sleep stages, or partial arousal (Includes sleepwalking, dream anxiety attacks, nocturnal seizures)
A more in depth view of this classification of sleep disturbances can be found here.
Men should sleep less than 09 hours
That’s right, guys.
A recent study found an inverse U-shaped association between sleep duration and semen parameters (semen volume, motility and total sperm number).
Basically, men who sleep less than six hours a day have reduced fecund-ability, as do men who sleep more than nine hours a day.
In any case, in another study a total of 46.3% of men of couples seeking help for infertility reported having sleep disturbances. That’s almost half of couples dealing with infertility!
Less sleep: what does it mean for women?
If you are trying to get pregnant, sleeping less than you normally do is definitely associated with stress and when taken to extremes constitutes a sleeping disorder, BUT did you know it can also indicate that you find your partner attractive?
Let’s look at the bad side of sleeping less first.
Women with sleeping disorders and infertility
When we sleep too little it really isn’t good for our health and less so if we are planning on having a family.
Studies targeted at women have shown that our reproductive transitions (Menstrual, pregnancy, menopause) have been associated with sleep continuity disturbance, which means we are at higher risk of insomnia disorder or other sleep related problems than men.
Yes, ladies, we are much more likely than our male partners to one day suffer from insomnia disorder. And these sleep disturbances DO affect our fertility.
Hey Mama-to-be sleeping less may be a good indicator for your fertility
So when is sleeping less considered beneficial for your fertility?
Guess what. It turns out we beautiful women sleep less if we find our partners really attractive.
And no that does not mean your insomnia means your guy is really hot. Remember, extremes are considered disorders. Here’s what the 2014 study on the effect of fertility on sleep patterns conducted by the University of Goettingen has to say:
“The data reported here provide evidence of systematic shifts in women’s sleep patterns as a combined function of fertility and the qualities of a woman’s primary partner. In general, we found that women with more sexually attractive partners slept less when the probability of conception was higher, while women with less attractive partners slept more when the probability of conception was higher. There was a main effect of partner attractiveness such that those women who rated their partners as more attractive also rated the quality of their sleep better”
You can read more on women’s sleep patterns and fertility here.
Sleep and fertility tips
So what do you need in order to get more sleep?
Here are some sleep and fertility tips as offered by the team at Attain Fertility:
- 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.
You can read more on sleep and fertility, here.
Also, learn about the hiMama fertility monitor and how you can track your ovulation while you sleep.
Get some good, old-fashioned, high quality sleep!
After reading this post, if you leave with one really important fact and one alone let it be this:
Sleep quality and duration are important for female and male fertility.
Here’s a recap:
- Women need to sleep at least eight hours straight through the night and night shift work can be a really bad idea if you want to get pregnant.
- Men need to sleep less than nine hours! Turns out in the realm of infertility there is such a thing as sleeping too much, and it applies to men! Sleep disturbances are associated with decrease in semen volume, motility and total sperm number.
- Hot ladies, if you are sleeping less at night but consider your sleep quality to be really good, you probably have a really hot boyfriend. So says science 😉
Keep up to date on fertility awareness and the benefits of the hiMama fertility monitor via our blog. Have any questions? Let us know!