Guest blog by Emma, an editor at Healthgrinder.com.
Are your sleep habits getting in the way of you and your partner conceiving?
While it may not seem like it, sleep actually plays an important role when it comes to fertility, your menstrual cycle, and pregnancy.
Sadly, we often take sleep for granted thinking that getting 6 or 7 hours of rest a night is enough. This is why the National Sleep Foundation estimates that women between the ages of 30 and 60 years old average a little over 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night. That’s a far cry from the recommended 7 to 9 hours of rest adults need on a nightly basis.
And, if you’re trying to conceive, it can hinder your ability to get pregnant.
If that’s not enough, a recent study performed on mice suggests that prenatal sleep deprivation has more far-reaching effects. Oddly enough, not getting enough sleep while you’re expecting can affect your child’s sexual behavior once they reach adulthood.
Are Your Sleep Habits Affecting How Much Rest You Get?
Our habits often dictate how we behave, many of which were developed from a young age. This is true for our sleep patterns as well. How you slept during childhood, your teenage years and college all determine what you do right before bedtime.
As such, if you’re not getting enough sleep or experience poor quality sleep, you may want to take a few minutes to assess your sleep hygiene.
When it comes to sleep, it’s important to note that both how much sleep you get, and its quality are important. In fact, some experts argue that the latter is more essential.
While sleep duration may be easy to quantify, quality of sleep is a bit more subjective. That’s because it is gauged by how well rested you feel when you wake up.
So how much sleep should you be getting?
If you’re trying to conceive or expecting, you should get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
How can you tell if you’re having problems sleeping?
Here’s a quick quiz you can take to see if your sleep habits need to improve.
- You have insomnia or have been diagnosed with the condition.
- It takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep after lying in bed.
- You spend more than 15% of the time in bed awake, instead of sleeping.
- You often wake up more than once per night.
- When you wake up in the middle of the night, it takes you more than 15 minutes to fall back asleep.
If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these statements, then your sleep quality needs to improve.
The good news is, for most people, you can easily do so by improving your sleep habits.
How Poor Sleep Habits Affect Fertility
Your sleep habits themselves don’t directly affect your ability to conceive. But, poor sleep habits often result in sleep deprivation. And, even when you get enough sleep, you may not be getting good quality sleep. In either case, they affect your chances of getting pregnant.
Lack of Sleep Messes with Your Body’s Hormonal Balance
One of the most disruptive effects of sleep deprivation is it puts your hormones out of whack.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, this can make it difficult.
That’s because many of the hormones that are involved in the reproductive cycle for both men and women are affected by your sleep-wake cycle. Among these include Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Testosterone, Progesterone, and Prolactin.
As such, they affect ovulation as well as your partner’s sperm maturation. Both of which can make it harder for you to successfully conceive.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Stress Levels
Another side effect of not getting enough sleep is stress. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it releases stress hormones like cortisol to help it cope. This allows you to stay and feel awake even when your body is tired.
In addition to being stressed, your body will crave food. That’s because it needs an alternative source of energy to take the place of sleep. Together, they help you get by despite being sleep deprived.
Unfortunately, stress can get in way of you conceiving. That’s because stress affects your hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain that instructs your ovaries to release eggs. As such, being constantly stressed from work, life or lack of sleep can cause you not to ovulate or ovulate later in your cycle.
In doing so, it can mess up your schedule if you’re trying to conceive.
Not Getting Enough Sleep Weakens Your Immune System
We all know that not getting enough sleep for a few nights in a row can make you more susceptible to getting sick. While the cold or flu can be bothersome at most, there’s more to it if you’re trying to get pregnant.
A weak immune system puts you at risk of health issues that can affect your fertility and chances of conceiving. Health condition like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease all make pregnancy risky.
Not Sleeping Enough Makes You Moody and Irritable
Like everyone else, you’re probably crankier and moodier when you don’t get enough sleep. When you feel this way, it makes it harder to be intimate with your partner. As such, it reduces the opportunities for you to conceive.
What Can You Do About It: Tips to Get More Sleep When You’re Trying to Conceive
1. Get 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
As we mentioned earlier, lack of sleep has far-reaching effects on your health. Not only does it deprive you of the many health benefits of sleep it also causes your hormones to go out of balance.
Because your hormones allow your brain to send messages to different parts of your body, this can affect how your organs function.
Among those affected is your fertility. In women who were undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), those who slept less than 7 hours a night were 15% less likely to become pregnant.
2. But Don’t Overdo It
Similarly, too much sleep isn’t a good thing, unless you’re trying to make up for sleep deprivation.
In fact, women doing IVF who slept 9 or more hours a night were 25% less likely to get pregnant compared to those who slept 7 to 8 hours nightly.
Among the reasons for this was sleeping in made you less likely to be active. It also increases the odds of you skipping breakfast and going to bed late.
3. Keep Light Out of Your Bedroom When It’s Time to Sleep
Our bodies are accustomed to sleeping when it’s dark. As such, blocking lights coming from the outside as well as those from digital devices help you sleep better.
One of the reasons for this is that light interferes with your body’s production of melatonin. Even a little light can trick your brain into thinking it’s not time to go to bed yet. As such, making it halt the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that promotes sleep.
4. Stop Watching TV and Using Digital Devices an Hour or Two Before Bedtime
Besides natural light coming from the moon or lamps in your room and hallways, it’s also a good idea to turn off digital devices or at least keep them out of sight.
That’s because digital screens like those on your cellphone, television, and laptop emit blue light. As such, using these devices or watching them late at night close to bedtime delays your body’s production of melatonin.
In doing so, it makes you feel awake and alert come bedtime.
As such a good rule of thumb is to set down or turn off these devices an hour before it’s time to go to bed.
5. Keep Your Bedroom’s Temperature Between 60 to 67 Degrees
You’ve probably noticed that it’s a lot harder to fall asleep during hot or humid nights. In contrast, when you’re in a cold air-conditioned room, it’s easier to doze off.
That’s because cooler temperatures are optimal for sleep. In fact, when you lie down in bed ready to sleep, your body’s temperature decreases to prepared it for its nightly rest.
So, to help facilitate the process, research suggests that keeping the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit helps you fall asleep faster.
6. Avoid Drinking Too Much Fluids Near Bedtime
Drinking fluids at night isn’t a bad thing on its own. In fact, it helps you stay hydrated.
Unfortunately, drinking too much close to bedtime makes you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom.
In doing so, it disrupts your sleep. In addition, if you have a hard time falling back asleep, this can reduce the number of hours of rest you get.
7. Skip Caffeinated Beverages 6 Hours Before You Plan on Sleeping
If you drink coffee in the middle of the day to help keep you alert, then you may want to scale down late in the afternoons.
That’s because caffeine takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to leave your system. Exactly how long will depend on your metabolism and a few other factors.
As a result, drinking coffee at 4:00 in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep if you go to bed at 10:00 p.m.
So, to avoid this problem, avoid eating or drinking anything with caffeine at least 6 hours before you plan on going to sleep.
8. Don’t Take Night Shifts or Work Odd Hours
By design, your body’s internal clock responds to light as a signal for it to wake up. On the other hand, darkness, tells your body that it’s time to go to bed.
As such, working odd hours or night shifts forces your body to stay awake at the wrong times. In doing so, it alters your sleep-wake cycle.
Unfortunately, doing so has been shown to increase your risk of reproductive irregularities, menstrual problems and cause issues with pregnancy.
So, if you’re trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to avoid such a situation.
Too often, we take sleep for granted. Maybe it’s because it can sometimes feel like a waste of time, especially if you’re busy or have a lot of things to do.
But, if you’re planning to conceive, it’s important to make sure you get enough good quality sleep because it plays a vital role in fertility. In doing so, you increase your chances of getting pregnant and having the family you’ve always dreamed about.
Emma is the editor at Healthgrinder.com where she writes about health-related topics, from how to improve your sleep habits, keeping your home clean and eating healthy. She is proud mom of two young kids and a very spoiled dog, enjoys traveling and volunteering in her spare time.