The benefits of good sleep on overall health are well-known. Healthy sleep habits contribute emotional and physical well-being. Sleep disorders can contribute to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glucose dysregulation, and mood disorders. If sleep is compromised, our ability to handle stress is also compromised.
For fertility, the effects of sleep are not as clearly known, but there are some indications that proper sleep is important to fertility. Women who are sleep-deprived can have higher levels of FSH and LH, which might impact ovarian function, and sleep deprivation can increase prolactin, which could have an inhibitory effect on the reproductive system. In men, sleep disorders can have a negative impact on sperm parameters.
However, some of us have a bit of difficulty getting a good restful sleep, even when given the opportunity. How can you get some better zzzz’s?
First off, make sure that there is no other medical condition that could be affecting your sleep that needs to be addressed. Conditions like an overactive thyroid gland, anxiety, depression, and peri-menopause are examples of these.
Assuming that there is no underlying condition, here are a few quick tips to get you started on a better night’s rest:
Get your room right.
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for sleep or for sex. Don’t confuse your body by doing work in bed. Also, make it as dark as possible for sleep (e.g. black out blinds, eye cover). Light during the night can disrupt your pineal gland and melatonin production. This also means no screen time before bed! (And if you must, there are settings on most phones that will turn off the blue light from the device, to lessen the impact somewhat).
Establish a sleep routine.
Regular sleeping and waking hours helps the body establish a regular circadian rhythm. This will allow the body to start to feel ready for sleep at the right time, and wake up more refreshed. Shift work with irregular nighttime hours has been associated with some poorer health outcomes in some studies – hopefully you can avoid this!
A calming wind-down routine before bed also helps the body get ready for sleep. Consider some light pleasant reading or deep breathing or a mindfulness exercise before bed.
Get deeper sleep.
Reduce or avoid alcohol; though it can make you drowsy, it can actually prevent you from achieving as much REM sleep as you could otherwise. REM sleep is the stage where you dream, and it’s thought to be restorative.
Keep a to-do list by your bed if you need to. Some people find they are constantly thinking of what needs to get done tomorrow and this prevents deep sleep. Having the list there allows you to quickly jot it down, and then be sure that it’s there to remind you tomorrow; you spend less time worrying!
There are supplements, herbs, and even acupuncture protocols out there that can also help too. While many are quite safe, it’s important to make sure there are no interactions or adverse effects you should worry about in your particular case. Zeynep or myself would be happy to help make sure they are appropriate for you.
Kloss et al. (2015). Sleep, Sleep Disturbance and Fertility in Women.
Sleep Med Rev. 2015 Aug; 22: 78–87. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.005
Vigano et al. (2017). Sleep disturbances and semen quality in an Italian cross sectional study.
Basic Clin Androl. 2017 Aug 21;27:16. doi: 10.1186/s12610-017-0060-0