Does Sleep Increase Fertility? [Sleep & Fertility Guide]
A good night’s sleep does so much more than just put us in a good mood. It helps our minds and bodies heal, it lowers our risk of developing chronic conditions, and it even keeps key fertility hormones in check!
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how much sleep you need each night, how sleep impacts fertility, and strategies for improving your quality of sleep while trying to conceive (TTC).
Does sleep increase fertility?
Yes and no. Sleep deprivation is known to disrupt hormone levels which in turn can negatively affect fertility. This means that increasing the amount of time slept each night can help to boost fertility in individuals who are sleep deprived. On the other hand, those who get enough sleep (7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night) will not necessarily benefit from additional hours of sleep.
How does lack of sleep affect fertility?
Disrupts hormone production
The amount (and quality) of sleep that you get each night can influence the secretion of certain hormones in the body. This includes reproductive hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone, as well as other hormones like adrenaline, melatonin, insulin, cortisol, prolactin, and somatotropin (also known as the growth hormone).
When these hormones are out of balance, a number of bodily processes are negatively affected. For example, lack of sleep can lead to any of the following:
- Weakened immune system
- Insulin sensitivity
- Increased appetite
In terms of the direct impact on fertility, lack of sleep can lead to anovulation and cycle irregularity – both of which can hinder your efforts to get pregnant.
Higher risk of chronic conditions
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), those who regularly get an insufficient amount of sleep may be at a higher risk of developing certain chronic conditions. This includes type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
While none of these chronic conditions directly cause infertility, they can make getting pregnant more difficult. For example, one study found that among women planning a pregnancy, those with obesity were much less likely to conceive compared to those in a normal weight range. Another study found that women with severe depressive symptoms are 38% less likely to conceive in any given menstrual cycle compared to those without severe depressive symptoms.
Decreased mood and libido
Lack of sleep can also have a profound impact on your mood and how you feel. For example, research shows that not getting enough sleep can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and irritability. It can even lead to more serious conditions like depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.
Understandably, lack of sleep is also associated with low libido. This could be due to any number of sleep-related factors like hormone imbalance, mood, and/or general fatigue. To put it simply, we are just not usually in the mood to have sex when we are sleep deprived.
How much sleep should I get?
The average amount of sleep needed each night can vary from person to person. However, it is widely accepted among doctors and scientists that adults need between 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted, high-quality sleep each night. Without it, our brains and bodies cannot function the way that they are supposed to.
How can I improve my sleep for better fertility?
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise
According to the Sleep Foundation, regular exercise not only helps us fall asleep faster, but it can also help to alleviate daytime sleepiness (which often leads to napping and poor quality of nighttime sleep). If you’re intimidated by the thought of exercise and joining a gym – don’t panic! Simply going for a daily walk, swim, jog, or hike can still be a massive help in improving your quality of sleep (and fertility).
Maintain a consistent bedtime
As human beings, we love routines. And one of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful night of sleep is to follow a consistent bedtime routine. This includes going to bed at around the same time each night, performing the same activities before bed (i.e. brushing your teeth, washing your face, reading/journaling, etc.), and turning off all electronics.
Avoid late caffeine
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that makes you feel more awake, alert, and energetic. And even though we may only “feel” its effects for an hour or two, it still takes up to 10 hours for caffeine to be fully processed through the body. That’s why it’s important to avoid caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening – so that you can enjoy a good night’s sleep without interference from the stimulating effects of caffeine.
Spend time outside
Spending time outside not only improves your mood and focus, but it can also improve your quality of sleep as well. This is backed up by one research study which found that those who have access to the natural environment were less likely to report problems with sleep. A few ways that you can squeeze in a bit more time outside include eating lunch in a park/garden, walking instead of driving when possible, and exercising in your backyard instead of the gym.
Limit alcohol before bedtime
In the short term, having a glass or two of wine can make you feel more relaxed, drowsy, and even sleepy. However, a glass of wine (or any type of alcohol) right before bed is associated with poor sleep quality and insomnia. This is because it takes the body several hours to metabolize alcohol, and this process is known to cause disruptions with sleep.
Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bed
Keeping screentime to a minimum right before bed is essential to a good night’s sleep. This is because the blue light emitted from screens can interfere with your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels, and in turn influence how “sleepy” or “awake” you feel. Not only that, but exposure to media content keeps your brain alert, active, and vulnerable to sensitive/emotional triggers.
Guided relaxation techniques are known to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, while also alleviating feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. When used right before bed, these techniques can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Some examples of guided relaxation exercises include progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and peaceful visualizations.
Avoid night shifts (if possible)
Night shifts understandably disrupt your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythm, and it can be difficult to get enough high-quality sleep while working at night and sleeping during the day. If you are TTC, doctors recommend avoiding night shifts in order to protect your sleep hygiene and fertility. If this is not an option for you, the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center has an excellent article on how to cope with shift work.
Sleep and fertility FAQs
What’s the least amount of sleep I should get if TTC?
For optimum health (and fertility), the CDC recommends that all adults should be getting at least 7-9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep each night. This means that the minimum amount of sleep you should get each night while TTC is 7 hours.
Is there such a thing as “too much sleep”?
Sometimes. If you are overcoming from stress, injury, or illness, it’s perfectly normal for your body to require more sleep than usual.
However, too much sleep can be a sign of an underlying problem. For example, oversleeping is linked to conditions like diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease. If you regularly require more than 9 hours of sleep each night, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup.
Can my partner’s sleep patterns affect my fertility?
If your partner’s sleeping patterns regularly interrupt the amount of sleep and quality of sleep that you get, this can certainly affect your fertility if left unaddressed. This is because a prolonged lack of sleep can lead to hormonal imbalance, which in turn disrupts your menstrual cycle and ability to get pregnant.
Sleep hygiene can be tricky to address within a relationship, especially with couples whose sleep schedules are incompatible. Here are a few strategies to try that may help you prioritize sleep as a couple without compromising intimacy:
* Create a new sleep routine together – and stick to it!
* Utilize headphones, earplugs, and/or sleep masks to block out light and sound.
* Designate a separate room for changing clothes and getting ready (in cases where one partner has to leave early or stay late for work.)
*Arrange a way to sleep in separate rooms but dedicate time for intimacy.