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Lack of sleep can cause infertility

Posted October 17

There may be a simpler and cheaper way to deal with infertility. (Deseret Photo)

One in eight couples have fertility issues. That is 12% of married women that either can’t get pregnant or can't sustain a pregnancy. Of that 12%, a little over 11% will actually go see a fertility doctor, but fertility visits and treatments can cost thousands of dollars and take years to complete. For a simpler solution, just check your sleep schedule.

Both men and women need sleep to be healthy, but for women trying to conceive, it is crucial. Research suggests women need 7-9 hours of sleep a night but most women faced with infertility average only six hours of sleep each night! This lack of sleep affects more than whether or not you can function the next day; it can affect your ability to get pregnant.

How?

When we sleep our bodies are actively preparing for the next day’s work. During the sleep cycle key hormones are produced and secreted that regulate ovulation and conception. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies can’t properly replenish these hormones, specifically the key fertility hormones prolactin and leptin.

Prolactin

Prolactin is primarily known for allowing women to produce breast milk after birth, but high or low prolactin levels can also cause infertility. This hormone is secreted during sleep; without a normal sleep cycle prolactin levels can become irregular. Both high and low levels of prolactin are dangerous while trying to conceive.

High levels of prolactin may mean you are not ovulating during your menstrual cycle and low levels of prolactin may be detrimental to sustaining pregnancy.

Leptin

Leptin is commonly known as the “I’m full” protein because it regulates your appetite, but it's also a key hormone in maintaining predictable ovulation cycles in women.

Leptin regulates the receptors in our brains that tell us when we are hungry and full and this key hormone is replenished while we sleep. A lack of sleep may cause overeating or an irregular diet, which in turn causes weight gain and an increase in leptin storage. This increase may lead to irregular periods. If too much leptin is produced, the chances of pregnancy are much lower and the risks associated with pregnancy are much higher.

If there is too little leptin production, the menstrual cycle will be irregular and may even be absent.

Sleep is also key in maintaining proper production and secretion of other key fertility hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The body is a sensitive tangle of systems, proteins and hormones that all need to work together and stay in balance to achieve optimal health and fertility conditions. And sleep is the key to maintaining this healthy balance.

Men need their sleep, too

Women do the brunt of the work once pregnant, but a lack of sleep for men can also affect a couple’s fertility. Men may not need quite as much sleep as women, but a solid eight hours of sleep each night is recommended. The REM cycle during sleep is very important for men’s fertility. When the REM cycle is interrupted men may produce less testosterone. This drop in testosterone make it much harder to get pregnant.

-We all know sleep is important. It is important for our overall health and development and, now you know, it is just as important for fertility. Getting the proper amount of sleep may not cure a couple’s infertility, but it is worth a try. It’s free and if it doesn’t lead to pregnancy, it will at least lead to a healthier and happier life!

Kelsey is a student at Brigham Young University studying to broaden her horizons through the written word. She loves the outdoors, family, car washes and punny witticisms.

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