Is lack of sleep disrupting your fertility?

Getting enough high quality sleep isn’t just good for your general health; it’s also great for your fertility.

By Dr Anubha Singh

According to the findings done by Philips annual global survey, lack of sleep is something over 30 percent of Indians struggle with and it only gets worse for patients dealing with the stress of fertility treatments. There is a certain age group whose sleep hours are often spent on late nights at work, binge watching on TV and smart phones. But for couples trying to get pregnant, a lack of sleep could be sabotaging their efforts.

For instance, Harish Atthotra, a Gurugram-based professional; he didn’t smoke, was not overweight and did not suffer from diabetes. He walked every day, and even ran a half-marathon. But he slept late, usually at 1 am or even later. After coming from office he usually watches Netflix or his favourite matches. He and his wife Dimple (31) have been trying for a baby. After his wife persuaded him to seek medical advice, it was found that there was a significant disruption of hormones, which posed a challenge to fertility. Your health, mood, hormones, and fertility are all affected by how much, and how well, you sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a fertility killer

Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just influence your mood and productivity; it also influences the hormones a woman secretes throughout her cycle. Studies have shown that getting enough quality sleep has a positive effect on the reproductive hormones a woman produces, including progesterone, estrogen, Leptin, and Follicle-Stimulating Hormones (FSH).

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Getting enough quality sleep is even more important for women hoping to achieve a pregnancy using IVF. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s study, women with low quality sleep had lower rates of fertility than those getting adequate rest.

Smartphones and TV screens create hindrances in conceiving

Even if you’re getting your eight hours of sleep every night, other factors, like light pollution from electronics, can also affect the quality of your sleep and your eggs. The blue light emitted from phones, computers, and other electronics can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, meaning the quality of your sleep is not where it should be.

But your gadgets aren’t just keeping you from sleeping well, they can also be hindering your efforts to conceive. The blue light from your electronics suppresses melatonin, a key hormone that both helps you sleep and protects your eggs when they are close to ovulation. Without appropriate melatonin production, your eggs will not be guarded from the free-radicals and can reduce their viability.

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Working till late night

Do you work the night shift? If so, you may find that you’ll have a harder time getting pregnant. Working the night shift can impact your circadian rhythm, resulting in hormonal imbalances, lower estrogen levels, and irregular menstrual cycles. These factors can all make it more difficult to both achieve a pregnancy, and carry it to term. Men may face low sperm count issues.

What you can do

Most of these habits are relatively easy to fix. In order to improve sleep quality and increase their chances of getting pregnant, women should:

·       Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Too few or too many hours can negatively affect fertility.

·       Unplug before bed. Put away computers, phones, tablets, and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime.

·       If you work swing shifts or night shifts, speak with your employer about changing your schedule. If this isn’t possible, ask your employer if it would be possible to adjust the lighting accordingly.

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Getting enough high quality sleep isn’t just good for your general health; it’s also great for your fertility. While getting enough sleep can be difficult for couples trying to achieve a pregnancy, getting in those eight hours a night can help improve your chances of conceiving and building the family of your dreams.

(The writer is Medical Director, Gynecologist and IVF from Shantah Fertility Centre, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi)

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