If you’ve been trying to conceive a child without success, no doubt you’ve heard much advice regarding how to increase your chances: weight control, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, or using an ovulation calendar, to name a few. But there’s another, frequently overlooked barrier to conception: sleep deprivation or a sleep disorder in either the male or the female. And such disorders are common. Consider the following statistics:
- The National Sleep Foundation estimates that over 65% of us are not getting the required amount of sleep each day—seven to nine hours.
- The average woman from age 30 to 60 only gets about 6 hours of sleep during the work week.
A regular lack of sleep has harmful effects, both physically and mentally. While we sleep hormones are released that allow the body to rejuvenate itself; without adequate sleep we are more prone to stress and illness, and our immune systems are weakened.
According to Michael J. Breus, Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Sleep Specialist, sleep has a “powerful influence on the body’s hormonal system, which controls a woman’s cycle and regulates ovulation.” Persons who suffer from a lack of sleep have a substantially higher level of the stress hormones adrenocorticotropic and cortisol, both of which are known to inhibit a healthy fertility cycle.
Poor sleep also impacts male fertility. SLEEP Journal (a joint publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society), recently published a study showing the link between fertility and sleep disorders: the research confirmed that men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a reduced sperm count that decreases the chances of conception.
Also, it has been shown that untreated sleep apnea increases erectile dysfunction in men and loss of libido in women.
Persons with obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing for up to ten seconds at a time multiple times during the night. OSA was once thought to affect only middle aged, overweight men, but we now know that the disorder is much more common than previously thought. It occurs in both men and women across the life span and affects slender persons as well as those who are overweight or obese.
The importance of sleep is not only tied to the number of hours, but also to the quality of sleep: waking up frequently during the night disrupts the normal sleep cycle, which includes a deep sleep stage during which the body restores itself. A lack of consistent sleep for any prolonged period of time can cause or contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain and hormone imbalance—all of which can lead to fertility problems.
If you’d like to have your sleep patterns assessed by a professional, or if you want to learn more about getting adequate sleep, please contact us. We can help improve your mood, your overall health and well being, and your chances of conception.
Photo Credit: Konstantin Lazorkin
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