Sleep and fertility

Sleep and the fertility factor

How significant a role does sleep play when you're trying to conceive?

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No one starts a family thinking “You know, we should work just enough to eke by…”

With the cost of living rising, particularly regarding health and education, starting a family is more daunting than ever.

Many couples understandably put career goals first, wanting a strong economic foundation before taking the leap into parenthood. These trends have seen many women choosing to delay motherhood until their 30’s or 40’s.

Research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that “poor women who are married have unintended pregnancy rates more than twice as high as those of higher-income women who are unmarried or cohabiting.”

Beyond expensive diagnostic tests and pricey hormone treatments, the pillar of all therapeutic fertility regimens is lifestyle change. Modifying bad sleep habits is one of the areas where you can make improvements to your general physical and psychological well-being, which can only increase your chances of success in the fertility stakes.

Getting in sync

When we relax in bed together in sleep, our reproductive hormone levels stabilize. On the one hand, we have “power couples” working instead of playing in bed. On the other, couples who may even be working opposite shifts. Disruption of your circadian rhythms will adversely affect your chances of conception and carrying a baby to term. If you are working mornings one week and graveyards the next, getting pregnant may seem much harder than “what comes naturally”.

Sleep habits and reproductive health

Hormone regulation is one of the most important activities going on in our bodies while we sleep. Stress interferes with our ability to relax and get qualitative rest. That means our body isn’t getting the opportunities it needs to optimize our system functions, including fertility.

Add the additional stress of “biological clocks” and well-meaning relatives saying “Don’t you think it’s time you two got pregnant?” and even more sleep is lost. So, what happens to our reproductive system when we don’t the right amount of good quality sleep?

For men

Some guys may love extreme sports, but extreme sleep habits are bad news in the fertility department. Sleeping too little, say less than six hours a night, will make it a lot harder for you to “shoot live rounds” when it comes to trying to start a family. Not only libido but testosterone levels plummet when you are sleep deprived.

The big surprise is that sleeping too much also has an adverse effect. The image of the lion snoozing under the tree all day is not a viable analogy for human studs. Finding the right balance that works for your activity level is the key. It is recommended that you get between six and nine hours per night, but seven to eight hours of sleep are considered ideal for optimizing male fertility.

For women

Follicle-stimulating hormone is the body chemical responsible for regulating a woman’s reproductive cycle and ovulation. Sleep is a vital factor in production of this and other important hormones such as melatonin which protects the eggs from toxins and free radicals in the body.

Light is a key factor in melatonin production. While it is fine to keep the lights on while making whoopee, your sleep space should be dark after play time. Habits like keeping your mobile device next to your bed or keeping the TV on all night for company can serious disrupt your natural sleep cycles, and body processes along with them.

A minimum of six hours per night is essential to health and fertility, and seven to nine hours are optimal. Unlike the gents though, there is no evidence showing that women who sleep “too much”, say nine or more hours regularly, have anything but health benefits to show for it. If you are suffering from chronic fatigue though, feeling as if you are never rested even after sleeping nine or ten hours, you should consult your physician.

The impact of chemically induced sleep:

Even though melatonin is good for your eggs ladies, don’t start popping chewable melatonin tablets like vitamins. Externally sourced melatonin may help you to relax, but it is the naturally occurring melatonin produced by your body that offers the additional protective benefits.

Any other sleep aid, prescription or non, must be discussed with your doctor as to what potential effects it may have on your fertility. Also, be wary of alcohol as it may help you relax and sleep more soundly, but it also interrupts your sleep archictecture and can induce dehydration.

Don’t get stressed….

I know, easy to say. It takes two to initiate the miracle of life though. Scheduling your intimate encounters around temperature measurements and ovulation calendars can take the pizzazz out of your love life.

A suggestion ladies is that rather than dragging your man to the bed by his ankles like a raving maenad shrieking “The doctor said we have to do it now!”, try seducing him.

The psychological factor is huge, for both of you. Try not to let the process and desired outcome eclipse the fact that you are trying to have a child because you dig each other. Getting pregnant is important, but don’t forget to have fun while you are trying.

Sleep time is an investment in prolonged good health and longevity, that improves your appreciation and enjoyment of life.

For many people having a family is one of the best things life has to offer. While economic stability is a contributing factor to a quality life, getting too caught up in the insecurity trap of always needing more just might be obstructing your dream life.

If you pare down what is essential for your happiness, and differentiate between wants and needs, it becomes simpler to prioritize. Once your motives are clear and your goals realistic, you will literally sleep much easier.