If you’re trying to have a baby or intend on having one at some point in the future, you probably know that your overall health is linked to your fertility. Did you know that sleep is no exception to this rule? In case you didn’t have enough to worry about while trying to start a family, research shows both men and women who don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis are more likely to experience problems with their fertility. Luckily, fixing your sleep schedule will affect your life in a myriad of positive ways beyond your ability to have children.
The reasons behind the infertility-sleep connection are different for men and women, though in both cases, hormones seem to play an important role. One study showed that both men who sleep too long and those who sleep too little are less likely to impregnate their partners—seven to eight hours seems to be just right for fertility. Of course, as with all studies that try to establish a cause and effect relationship between two events, it’s possible that other factors play the deciding role. For instance, poor sleep can also affect your libido and body weight. That said, the study authors did their best to control for these variables.
More research on the link between sleep and male fertility is required to establish a solid connection, but researchers suspect that the link is due to the way poor sleep affects the production and regulation of testosterone, an important fertility hormone.
In women, research on infertility and sleep has often focused on the role of a common, dangerous sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Researchers have long known that sleep affects the health of the body’s hormonal regulation systems. Fluctuations in hormones caused by poor sleep have been shown to have a range of negative effects for mood, appetite, immune regulation, and fertility. In the context of fertility, the important hormones to consider are those that regulate ovulation and stress—women who don’t get enough sleep have high levels of certain stress hormones that are known to inhibit fertility . In addition, a longitudinal study that tracked the health outcomes of women with sleep disorders for five years found that women with sleep disorders are three times as likely to have trouble getting pregnant, as compared to women who get enough sleep.
If you want to start a family and have trouble getting enough sleep on a regular basis, have an honest conversation with your healthcare provider. There are numerous ways to improve the quality of your sleep, and many of them don’t involve prescription drugs. Of course, if your mattress is the problem, have a chat with a sleep specialist at your local Regal Sleep Solutions to get fitted for the right mattress for your body type.