Sleep is critical in so many aspects of our lives, but did you know that sleep can be very important to fertility in both women and men?
How does fertility change in men and women with age?
As we age, fertility declines in both men and women. For women, fertility begins to reduce in the early 30s, with a lower chance of conceiving by age 40. Fertility in men begins to decline between the ages of 40-45 when sperm quality decreases. Peak sperm quality is somewhere between ages 30-35 and is lower after age 55.
How does sleep impact fertility in men and women?
Most people already know that sleep is essential for health, healing, focus, performance, and growth, but it’s less widely known that sleep also can play an important role in fertility for both men and women. Research from Boston University School of Public Health has shown that women and men benefit from getting 7-9 hours of sleep — more than 9 hours or less than 6 hours was found to be associated with reduced probability of conception. This may be due to the relation between testosterone levels and sleep time. There is also some research suggesting that a disrupted circadian rhythm can impact female fertility. Therefore, it is recommended that women who are trying to get pregnant should aim to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and reduce their exposure to blue light (such as computer screens, tablets, and bright LED indoor lights) during the hours before bedtime. In addition to doing your best to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, eating your meals at consistent times can support your natural biological clock too, which in turn could play a role in supporting reproductive health.
Sleep has been shown to have positive effects on hormone regulation in both sexes. This can be attributed to the role that the brain plays in hormone production. Hormones that trigger ovulation and sperm maturation can be linked to sleep wake cycles. If the sleep cycle is erratic due to a poor sleep schedule, shift work, or working late into the night, then hormone production may become erratic as well, which can make it more difficult to conceive.
Research has shown that women and men who are encountering infertility often have trouble sleeping and that a disrupted sleep schedule can affect hormone production in both women and men. Women who have low quality sleep and not enough sleep have lower rates of fertility as well as higher levels of stress, compared to women who sleep better. In men with poor sleep quality or inadequate amounts of sleep, both testosterone and sperm count decline, and this can have negative effects on health as well as fertility. Sleep is important for many aspects of health, which tend to interact with one another. This can lead to a cycle: sleep influences mood, hormones, weight, and stress, which can have effects on fertility, which may then influence sleep and so on.
What comes next for this field of research?
Though there have been some studies on the relation between sleep and fertility in men and women, much more still needs to be done to further understand the link between sleep and fertility, along with identifying and understanding other factors that affect this link such as specific hormones and various aspects of stress. Additionally, more research is needed to understand how differences in sex and age relate to the influence of sleep on fertility.
It is important to talk to your health care provider for recommendations and advice on how to best improve your own sleep as well as if there is anything you should be aware of to help improve fertility.
Take care and sleep well!