Have you ever wondered about the importance of good quality sleep and its effects on fertility

Sleep is one of the most critical bodily functions. It is required to replace some of the hormones we use during the day, enabling us to process all the new information we come across daily.[1-3] It also plays a significant role in energy conservation[4], healing[5], fertility[6,7], metabolism[8], mental well-being[9], good memory, and learning[10]

The problem is that most people either do not get enough or the optimal quality of sleep, which is problematic because this can detrimentally impact general health and even fertility.

Learning about the significance of good quality sleep will benefit you in many ways.

For this reason, we will tackle everything about sleep: sleep deprivation, quantity, and quality of sleep, as well as improving its quality and other self-care tips – all to optimize your health and improve your fertility, resulting in better chances at conception.

Signs You Are Sleep Deprived

Lack of enough sleep, and quality sleep, resonates negatively, not only on your health but in every aspect of your life, because it affects your concentration, focus, and moods during the day. 

Here are some of the signs of sleep deprivation[11,12]:

  • Poor motivation
  • Feeling sleepy during the day
  • Increased craving for sugar, nicotine, alcohol, and coffee
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches

To effectively address this issue, it is essential to learn why you are sleep deprived. It may be due to a change in your schedule, stress, medical problems or illnesses, or a sleeping disorder.

When you have a handful of the symptoms above, it is best to talk to a doctor or a sleep specialist. They can help you with the appropriate treatment for your situation. Medications, behavioral and cognitive therapies, and home management methods can help resolve these issues.

Importance of Quantity and Quality of Sleep

Quantity and quality of sleep are necessary, interrelated, and impact each other.

Too little sleep (4-6 hours) and too much sleep (over 9 hours) can negatively affect one’s health. Both symptoms are similar and include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and lack of mental clarity.[13-16]

So, how much sleep do you need? According to The American National Sleep Foundation[17] (and of course, every individual is different), sleep requirements change with age and, on average, are as follows:

0-3 months: 14-17 hours
4-11 months: 12-15 hours

1-2 years: 11-14 hours
3-5 years: 10-13 hours
6-13 years: 9-11 hours

14-17 years: 8-10 hours

Adults/Older Persons
18-64 years: 7-9 hours
65+ years: 7-9 hours

Good quality sleep is characterized by feeling refreshed in the morning and ready for the day. It is advisable to go to bed when the body’s melatonin (hormone) secretion is at its highest around 9 pm to get the most benefits from sleep. Reproductive hormones also peak at that time which is nature’s way of pointing out the importance of going to bed early for optimum fertility.[18]

Sleep and Its Effects on Your Fertility

Sleep has both direct and indirect impacts on male and female fertility. Hence mind your sleeping routine and ensure that it is healthy for a better chance of achieving a healthy conception.

Sleep and female fertility

Poor quality sleep in women affects hormone levels. Some studies found that women who are shift workers tend to be at high risk of prolonged menstrual cycles and abnormal heavy flow with severe menstrual pain.[19,20]

Melatonin, a hormone associated with the sleep-wake cycle, controls reproductive hormones and is believed to affect egg fertilization and embryo viability.[21]

Moreover, higher levels of the hormone prolactin are released during sleep. As a result, sleep deprivation leads to the repressed production of this hormone. Prolactin level fluctuations are linked with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and lack of regular ovulation.[22]

Furthermore, irregular follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels negatively impact the menstrual cycle and ovulation. The FSH levels in women who sleep for a much shorter period are lower than in those who get enough sleep.[23]

Sleep and male fertility

Men who sleep less than 6.5 hours per night or more than 9 hours per night may have decreased semen volume and the total number of sperm.[24] Poor quality sleep results in low levels of testosterone which then causes a lower sperm count.[21,24] Semen volume is even lower in overweight men who have difficulty falling asleep.[25] 

Additionally, men who lie awake most of the night have lower sperm motility.[25] The anti-sperm antibodies are also higher in men who sleep past midnight than in men who sleep between 10 pm and midnight.[21]

Improving the Quality of Your Sleep

Here, you will find some solutions for a better night’s sleep. The more diligent you can follow these recommendations, the faster and better your results will be.

To get you started, ensure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (including weekends). It will dramatically help to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm to normalize and optimize your sleep patterns. The body needs consistency and as much darkness in the room as possible.

In addition, go to bed when you are too sleepy to stay up. It is bedtime if you cannot read a book (light or spiritual content preferred) for more than two pages without drifting off. It should take less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at this stage.

Other Important Self-Care Tips for Sleep

Here are additional tips for maximizing the benefits of sleep for your advantage:

  1. Watch what you eat.

A healthy diet is essential to induce quality sleep.[26-27] 

Meals consisting of non-starchy, low-glycemic vegetables and good-quality proteins throughout the day assist in maintaining your blood sugar levels and prevent disruptive wake-up patterns during the night. 

Moreover, avoiding sugary and caffeine-rich foods, especially in the afternoon and evening (such as chocolate, for example), is essential for achieving good quality sleep.[28-29]

  1. Be careful with what you drink.

Beverages such as juices (too sugary), coffee, tea, energy drinks, and alcohol will most certainly negatively impact your sleep quality.[28-30] Even one coffee early in the day is enough for many people to throw their systems into chaos. 

If you must drink juices beverages, do so in the morning. Also, opt for healthier alternatives to your caffeinated drinks – a warm dandelion tea works wonders! 

Alcohol is best avoided completely.[30] It does not just affect sleep quality but also has direct impacts on reproductive outcomes. For more information, look at the infographic The Real Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Fertility, Miscarriage Risk, and Reproductive Outcomes.

  1. Regular exercise is essential.

Exercise helps to reduce your stress and will assist you in having a great night’s sleep.[31] However, studies show that the best time to exercise if you want to sleep well at night is in the morning.[31] 

Exercising later in the day (less than 6 hours before bed) can disrupt sleep. Hence schedule your daily exercise for at least 40 minutes before work or lunchtime.

  1. Get professionally-prescribed nutrients and herbal medicines.

Nutrients and herbal medicines can have an amazingly nourishing and restorative effect on the body. Resolving depletion or deficient states in your body can help support good quality sleep.[32-35]

However, each individual has different requirements. Therefore, assessing your needs and what other supplements or medicines you are currently taking with the help of a professional is vital before embarking on any new supplementation. Read 7 Reasons Why You Should Never Self-Prescribe to discover the dangers of taking supplements without professional guidance.

  1. Balance stress and your emotions.

Tools such as meditation, visualizations, guided relaxation or recorded hypnotherapy sessions, and emotional freedom techniques are ideal tools for helping to reduce stress and balance your emotions.

Regularly putting these into practice has been found to help promote good sleep quality.[36-37] 

  1. Create your own ‘going to bed ritual.’

Getting your body used to a routine before bed makes it easy for you to relax and fall asleep. It can be having a hot shower, putting on your comfortable pajamas, or reading a few pages of a book.

Whatever calming and soothing routine is essential. Avoid watching TV or reading exciting novels at this time. The whole point is to unwind.

  1. Set up a sleeping environment conducive to a good night’s sleep.

A peaceful, uncluttered, pleasant, and cool sleeping environment is essential for a good night’s sleep. Our bodies begin experiencing a dip in core temperature about the same time the sleeping hormone melatonin is released.[38] Hence getting the room temperature down helps signal your body it is time to drift off.[38]  

In addition, your room also has to be as dark as possible because exposure to room light has been found to suppress melatonin levels, impacting sleep quality.[39] 

Furthermore, avoiding electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom is best. These are particularly problematic in your bedroom (or its adjoining walls) as electromagnetic radiation can disrupt your cellular and brain function and sleep.[40-41] For this reason, TVs, clock radios, computers, gaming stations, and even electric blankets should not be in the bedroom (even if unplugged).[40-41]

Lastly, try to use your bed for sleeping (and lovemaking) only so that you will associate your bed only with rest, making it easier to relax and doze off when needed. 

  1. Seek help if you have sleeping disorders.

If you have (or suspect you may have) a sleeping disorder, it is imperative to get yourself checked to acquire the help you need and prevent the problem from persisting. 

There are different sleeping disorders and various symptoms, including snoring, restlessness at night, difficulty breathing, unexpected arousal, sweating, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea.[42]

Final Thoughts

Good sleep hygiene is vital to obtain the quality and quantity of sleep your body requires to reset, replenish, and support ALL bodily systems to continue functioning optimally.

There is so much more to sleep and its effects on fertility – and how you can fully take advantage of this knowledge – that you can find in additional resources, like in the infographic The Real Impact of Poor Sleep Hygiene on Fertility, Miscarriage Risk and Reproductive Outcomes.

Furthermore, you can watch Ask Gabriela Rosa Live: Quality sleep and reproductive health for more expert-backed and evidence-based advice on acquiring good quality sleep to help you create your desired reproductive outcomes.

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