The journey to pregnancy can be long and winding. No matter where you are along the way, you need sleep. Sleep provides a base on which you can build your health. Lack of sleep can affect fertility as it affects all of your body’s systems, including those related to fertility. Better rest won’t solve all fertility issues, but it does set the stage for the body to function at the best of its ability. Here’s how lack of sleep can affect fertility hormones.
We’re going to jump right in with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is one factor that influences reproductive hormones, follicle development, and menstruation. Poor sleep, which is any time you get less than seven hours, changes the balance in the HPA, altering uterine receptivity.
But it’s not just poor sleep that can throw the HPA axis off. Stress can also be a factor. Stress and sleep have a tenuous relationship. Poor sleep can increase stress, but stress can also be the cause of poor sleep. It’s the old chicken and the egg. They both can negatively influence the HPA axis. When both are present, the resulting hormone fluctuations add to the pile of potential fertility hazards.
The circadian rhythms control many of the biological processes that repeat in a 24-hour period. They heavily rely on natural light to correctly time the sleep cycle. Circadian dysrhythmia is a term used to describe a sleep cycle that opposes the natural day/night schedule, and it can alter fertility hormones.
For example, someone who works a graveyard shift is active when the body naturally wants to sleep. A study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine found that women who worked swing or graveyard shifts or whose jobs were physically demanding had lower oocyte counts. They may have slept a full seven hours but the timing of that sleep impacted their fertility rates.
Obesity in both men and women decreases fertility, and sleep plays a part in weight control. Inadequate sleep causes the body to release more hunger hormone and less satiety hormone. The body also craves more unhealthy foods during sleep deprivation due to changes in the brain’s reward center. Good sleep is part of maintaining a healthy weight and supports increased fertility.
The good news is that the quality and length of your sleep can change based on your choices. You can develop habits and behaviors that boost your health while supporting your fertility efforts.
Sleep can provide you with the emotional and physical energy you need to weather every fertility twist and turn. It strengthens your body by allowing it to function as nature intended. You might have some changes to make to better support your sleep. Give yourself time and be consistent. Sleep is one more way you can smooth your journey no matter where it takes you.
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.
The article is a guest post and does not constitute medical advice. As always, please seek the advice of a qualified professional for any health related issues or concerns.