It happens to all of us: we skimp on sleep to complete our daily priorities. But in the long-term, this can be harmful to your health, productivity, and future family plans.
In America, approximately one in eight couples are affected by fertility problems. And when the body is in a health crisis, many individuals—men and especially women—find that fertility problems are one of the first symptoms of physical stress. For individuals and couples who have recently begun to address fertility problems, it’s worth looking at sleep patterns.
The Infertility and Sleep Deprivation Connection
Hormonal health is one of the first fronts that individuals should look at when evaluating the relationship between sleep deprivation and infertility.
Sleep and healthy hormone production are related. Your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, also supports the regulation of hormones in your body.
In both men and women, sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in stress hormones, which will make conception significantly more difficult.
Male Fertility and Sleep Deprivation
One of the first impacts of sleep deprivation on men is in testosterone levels. There is a positive correlation between the amount of sleep men get and their testosterone levels: More sleep can lead to higher testosterone levels, and less sleep can lead to lower testosterone levels (as well as decreased libido) for most men.
Sleep deprivation can also impact sperm count and sperm quality. Researchers have reported that, in addition to habits such as poor diet and exercise, the American decrease in number of hours slept directly correlates with the national decrease in sperm count.
For this reason, those who wish to preserve or improve their fertility health should sleep between seven and nine hours each night. Getting more than nine hours of sleep each night, however, can negatively impact fertility for men, so it’s also important that men do not get too much sleep.
Female Fertility and Sleep Deprivation
For women, the impact of sleep deprivation on fertility can be much more drastic than it is for men.
In fact, research has shown that women who struggle with insomnia can have up to a 400 percent increase in fertility problems as compared to women who are well-rested.
For women exploring the relationship between female fertility and sleep deprivation, menstrual cycles can be a key indicator of their health. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle. In fact, women who work jobs with irregular schedules, such as nurses and flight attendants, are much more likely to experience disruptions in their menstrual cycles.
Since sleep impacts so much of our hormonal regulation, disrupted sleep schedules in women can often contribute to irregular ovulation and menstruation.
Due to the effects on the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), sleep deprivation also impacts conception. This hormone is essential for an egg to reach fertilization, but in one study researchers found that women who got six hours of sleep or less saw a 20 percent decrease in FSH.
And Then There Are These Factors
Fertility is delicate, with hundreds, if not thousands, of factors impacting conception. Since sleep is such a vital part of overall health, it makes sense that it impacts fertility in multiple ways.
For example, sleep deprivation can make someone more irritable and decrease libido. Decreased libido and increased irritability naturally reduce sexual activity which can result in fewer opportunities for pregnancy.
Lack of proper sleep will also impact your immune system and increase your chance of contracting other diseases. If an individual is fighting off an illness, it can become more difficult for them to conceive. Some of the worst effects of sleep deprivation (such as heart disease and diabetes) can make conception exceedingly more difficult.
All in all, sleep deprivation critically impacts health and, if your body is working overtime to restore your overall health, fertility will become an extremely low priority in that process.
The Bottom Line
To protect your future family plans, make sure you understand the correlation between sleep deprivation and infertility.
Even if you aren’t thinking about expanding your family at this point in time, it’s a good idea to take care of your sleep patterns and reproductive health as early as you can. Need support making healthier choices, such as optimizing your sleep patterns? An Arootah Life Coach can help.
Life is stressful. So how do you get yourself to fall asleep, and stay asleep, for a good night’s rest? Tell us in the comments!