A good night’s sleep does far more than leave you feeling rested. It’s a vital part of your overall health. However, poor sleep correlates with low fertility rates in both men and women, though the exact relationship isn’t always clear. We do know that sleep affects many of the body’s systems that contribute to fertility. Thankfully, there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep and the length of your sleep cycle by developing healthy sleep-related habits. Better sleep can’t solve all fertility issues but it can contribute to conditions that increase the chances of conception.
Heal Your Body
The brain, your muscles, your reproductive organs—you name it and it gets worn down by the end of the day. To keep your body up and running, it has to do regular maintenance, and a majority of the body’s rejuvenating and healing takes places while you sleep.
Take muscle recovery, for example. Human growth hormone gets released in it’s highest amounts during slow wave sleep. If you sleep less than seven hours or if the timing of the sleep cycle gets altered, those hormones don’t get released as they should. The same holds true for the body’s other systems, including anything and everything that affects the reproductive system. They need to strengthen, heal, and rejuvenate every day too.
Stress Management and Reduction
Stress affects the body in strange ways, including reduced fertility in women. High-stress conditions can cause fertility rates to go down by as much as 13 percent. Sleep plays a major role in managing and reducing stress.
Without enough sleep, that’s less than seven hours, the brain becomes oversensitive to and hyper responds to anything it perceives as negative. Problems at work, arguments with a partner, or the unpredictability of everyday life can cause a greater emotional response. At the same time, the brain’s ability to control these responses goes down because its logical center becomes less active during sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep can both reduce stress and help maintain normal emotional balance.
Overweight women have lower fertility rates, and weight can be affected by a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation causes the body to produce increased amounts of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, and a reduction in leptin, a hormone that gives the “full” signal. Poor sleep also changes how the brain experiences rewards from food. During sleep deprivation, it gets increased rewards from foods loaded with sugar and fat.
Altogether, these changes lend themselves to weight problems. However, a single night of seven hours of sleep can return hormone levels and cravings back to normal. Food choices will still be up to you, but you have better a chance of maintaining a healthy weight when sleep is on your side.
Creating and Maintaining Sleep Support
Knowing you need adequate sleep and getting enough sleep are two different things. However, there are ways you can help.
- Tailor the Bedroom Environment to Your Sleep Needs: Most people sleep comfortably in a room that’s 60 to 68 degrees. You, however, may like it warmer or cooler so it might take some experimentation. Your mattress should support your weight and sleep style, yet a mattress is a highly individualized purchase. A mattress that works for a child may not work for an adult. The key is to learn what conditions work for you and consistently recreate them every night.
- Give Your Brain the Gift of Predictability: The human body craves predictable patterns. That’s how it runs all the cycles that repeat within a 24-hour period, including sleep. A regular bedtime allows the brain to recognize and adjust to your behavioral pattern, which can help you fall asleep faster.
- Relax with a Bedtime Routine: Routine makes bedtime predictable, which we already know the brain loves. A bedtime routine also gives you time to reduce stress. You can use any activity in your routine as long as it leaves you relaxed and ready for sleep.
Sleep changes come gradually. While better sleep may not solve all your fertility issues, it can provide the physical health and emotional balance that create the right conditions for conception.