Good sleep seems to be in short supply for so many of my clients – stress and worry (especially over fertility issues) overwork, noise and light pollution, and the pressures of social media all combine to disrupt sleep. But when you don’t get the sleep you need, your fertility can suffer.
Our circadian rhythm is our 24-hour biological body clock, and it’s triggered by the natural light and dark cycle of day and night. Sleep and keeping your 24-hour clock working are crucial for our reproductive hormones, as both luteinising hormone (the hormone that surges mid-cycle and triggers ovulation) and testosterone (required for sperm production) can be affected by disruptions to this circadian clock.
For women, good sleep is additionally important for successful implantation as lack of sleep triggers the body’s stress response – which can influence uterine receptivity. For men, not getting enough sleep can also have implications for sperm health. A recent study by The University of Denmark* found that those who went to bed before 10:30pm were nearly three times more likely to have normal sperm than those who went to bed between 11pm and 11:29pm, and almost four times as likely for those hitting the hay after 11:30pm. The take away? Getting an earlier night and having more sleep is dramatically better for sperm.
PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE:
If you’re trying to conceive, or looking to improve your fertility naturally, looking at your sleep hygiene is a great place to start. Sleep hygiene is a routine that tells your body it’s time to go to sleep.
Sleep hygiene actually begins in the morning – we all need at least twenty minutes of natural daylight early on to kickstart our daily rhythms, so starting each day by getting up and outside can make it more likely you’ll sleep that night. During winter, getting enough daylight isn’t always possible, so you can always try a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp.
In the evening, a warm bath can help you decompress, but then keeping your bedroom cooler is preferable, so no central heating – we have evolved to sleep in cooler air, so having a window open or fan on could prevent you from getting too hot in the night.
A good wind-down regime (like meditation) to rest your mind is also imperative, along with not using digital screens at least two hours before bed. Digital screens emit blue light, which is similar to daylight, and could confuse your clock into thinking it’s wake time instead of bedtime.
Creating a soothing space for sleep is vital, bedrooms are for sleep and sex only, not work etc, and I’m very firm on this point! Light and noise are our biggest environmental enemies so blackout blinds, earplugs, and sleeping masks can all help.
Early sleep during the week, and in fact a consistent bedtime every night, can do wonders for keeping you in sync with your natural clock, so make sure you aren’t staying up too late to get the rest you need.
By practicing good sleep hygiene, and working with nature’s cues, you can take a step towards ensuring that bad sleep isn’t affecting your chances of successfully conceiving.
* Hvidt, J, et al, ‘Associations of bedtime, sleep duration, and sleep quality with semen quality in males seeking fertility treatment: a preliminary study’, Basic and clinical andrology, (April 2020), Volume 30(5).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mel holds a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Therapy, an MSc in Nutritional Medicine, and has been specialising in fertility and pregnancy nutrition for over 18 years. Her career includes time spent at the Zita West Fertility Clinic, The Healthy Holiday Company, and Dr Jane Benn & Associates. Mel set up Melanie Brown Nutrition 10 years ago and currently works with clients across the globe advising them on fertility-enhancing diet and lifestyle.