Have you ever wondered how sleep affects fertility?
I’m sure you’ve experienced the effects of a lack of sleep, that tired foggy feeling. Did you know how the body is affected by this lack, including fertility?
Our bodies are incredible and as I say many many times, if we work against the intrinsic design, things can go awry. Important stuff happens within the body when we sleep. For example: muscle repair, cell repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth, appetite and ovulation.
Why is sleep so Important?
So let’s look first of all at the function of sleep. We think of sleep in someways as a time of shut down. It is in fact an incredibly active time for the body, where a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.
Adults are often cited as needing 7-9 hours restorative sleep per night.If you want to look into sleep and its effects further, then I can really suggest the Book “Why We Sleep” by Dr Matthew Walker.
I am a science nerd as you may have gathered and I love to find the science behind the recommendations we are given. I also like to find the science behind the “woo”. A lot of what is labelled new age, is actually deep within our intrinsic design, something Medicine has in many ways left behind.
The book gives some incredible insights through research review as to sleeps importance. Perhaps more specifically the effects of being un-slept is fascinating and thought provoking.
Another great source of information is
Sleep a vital part of our sustenance and is cited by many as a pillar of our health, you could say it’s the very foundation. This is discussed by Dr Rangan Chattergee’s in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan. He discusses sleep as a pillar and actually a foundational pillar.
His podcast “Live better, Live More” is well worth a listen too. What I love about his writing and interviews is that as a Dr. he is able to acknowledge the need to address issues upstream, rather than treating symptoms downstream as is the norm in western medicine.
Many people and often important world leaders boast of how little sleep they need. But considering how decision making is affected by a lack of sleep, Im not sure this is the best sleep pattern for them!
Culturally, those who sleep well, get a lot of sleep and perhaps nap can be viewed as being lazy. I remember once, as I didn’t stay up for the all nighter, being told that there would be enough time to sleep when dead. But that may come sooner rather than later.
Im pleased than now it may be OK to boast about getting the required sleep. I love my sleep, I get 8-9 hours sleep, and its non negotiable.
I have seen the positive effects on my own health and when possible, I love a short afternoon nap!
Effects of being un-slept
Did you know that sleep deprivation has actually been used as a form of torture?
I’m sure you have experienced the effects of being unslept: feeling groggy and tired, brain fog and difficulty concentrating. But do you know it can also affect:
- Difficult to lose weigh
- Decreased immunity
- Decrease in natural cancer fighting cells
- Likelihood to injury and limits recovery
- Low sex drive
- Negative effect on exercise and performance
- Affect mental wellbeing
- Decreased Life expectancy
- Increased risk of Heart attack
- Effects on Fertility
Lets reframe a couple of these and see the positive: a good nights sleep of between 7-9 hours sleep can therefore:
- Help you slim, yes, really. With reduced sleep your body will not use fat, it will use lean muscle instead as the fat will need to be stored, as your body is entering survival mode as if danger is sensed.
- Boost immunity, with less than 5 hours sleep, you are 4 x more likely to catch a cold.
- Improved performance, many athletes sleep in excess of 10 hours.
- A longer life!
- Improve Fertility.
How Sleep affects Fertility
Research has shown that women undergoing IVF have increased number of eggs collected if they have slept for over 7 hours a night. Studies have shown the women who get less than 7 hours were 15% less likely to get pregnant.
As well as cell renewal and restoration which is hugely important, hormone balance is key during sleep, and of course we come back to the important aspect of safety. A lack of sleep sends messages to your body that you are in danger and therefore survival is more important than reproduction right now.
Our Hunter Gatherer ancestors would lack sleep in times of danger, not because of Busy social lives, Screen use, working hours, Deadline stress etc.
A study in Denmark showed that sperm count and health is also affect by a lack of sleep, with up to a 25% reduction in sperm count. Research has also indicated a link between reduced sleep and testosterone levels,
The sleep wake cycle and Luitenzing Hormone
The sleep-wake cycle refers to our 24 hour daily sleep pattern which consists of being awake for approximately 16 hours in the daytime and having around 8 hours night time sleep. This is in effect your master clock and it controls many biological function as cited above. This master clock controls many biological functions over a 24 hour period, such as the release of hormones, body temperature changes, and sleep–wake cycles.
One of it key factors is hormone release and this is key to fertility…
A lack of sleep has been shown to specifically affect the Luteinizing Hormone surge which is vital for ovulation, and is thought to be directly affected by disturbances to the sleep wake cycle. So this can be affected by :
- Poor sleep, i.e low quality/disturbed sleep – this is something I see with many clients who are having secondary fertility issues. They are still disturbed sleep with three first child
- Reduced sleep
- Shift work
- Travel through time zones
Research has demonstrated substantial effects to health shift workers and long haul cabin crew.
What can you do?
I talk in detail with my clients about their sleep and we look at ways to improve things. It can be straight forward, such as going to bed earlier, but for others it may be more complicated. Lifestyle, work patterns can of course affect things.
We are designed to go to sleep when dark and wake when light. The hormone melatonin helps us to do this, Artificial light especially blue light from screens can affect this!
Another huge factor is caffeine. caffeine prevents the chemical Adenosine from attaching to its receptors in the body. Adenosine is a chemical that builds throughout the day and when levels get to the necessary level, you are sleepy.
Caffeine, steals the receptors and what is fascinating is that caffeine is stilling the body at a quarter or its original load, 12 hours after you have consumed it. Caffeine is the most used psychoactive drug (yes, really) today.
This effect can be interns of getting to sleep, staying asleep and the depth of sleep.
Something that surprised me was learning that De caffeinated Tea and coffee, still contains caffeine. It can contain 30% of the caffeine of a fully caffeinated drink.
As a guide try to:
- Get to bed by 10 pm. Evidence suggests many vital repair systems within the body operate before midnight
- Get 7.5 – 9 hours sleep opportunity.
- Wind down before bed, develop a sleep routine
- Take a daytime nap if you are tired,. Humans design is to have Duo-phasic sleep. A mid afternoon nap is the norm! How often have you drifted off in an early afternoon meeting. Usain Bolt broke the Olympic and World record 35 minutes after a nap!
- Reduce caffeine consumption, and if possible not after 12 mid day, caffeine has a quarter life of 12hours, so can affect your sleep if still in your system.
- Remove blue screens before bed. The waves mimic light and also affect the brain waves achieved in sleep.
- utilise something to soothe you to sleep. This helps to reduce our tendency for thought wandering. I can recommend the app Calm. I love the sleep stories, which really surprised me as to their effectiveness.
- Reduce your psychological stressors, by undertaking mindfulness or relaxation
- Consider a daylight stimulation alarm clock for those dark winter mornings
- Use Certified Grade Pure Therapeutic essential oil, such as Lavender, frankincense, Vetiver and/or Roman Chamomile. For more info
So, there you have it, sleep may be the best prescription you can have for a longer life improved health, weight loss, immunity boost and fertility.
Its how we were designed.
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