Sleep and infertility. How much sleep do you need to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

When it comes to getting pregnant it’s hard to narrow success down to one thing because there is no one silver bullet that we can all do to improve our fertility. But there is one thing that research has shown to improve fertility that is “easy”, cheap, and some might even say enjoyable:

Get more sleep.

Importance of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the single best things we can do for our general health. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, accident prevention, and fertility.

Sleep and Infertility for Women

Lack of adequate sleep can affect a woman’s menstrual cycles, which obviously affects her fertility. Too little sleep leads to low leptin levels, a hormone that can impact ovulation.

Sleep also improves a woman’s follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. Studies have found that FSH levels were 20% higher in women who got adequate sleep over sleep-deprived women. Most important, this improvement in FSH levels was across the board whatever the age or weight or body mass index of the woman.

Too little sleep also increases the risk of obesity. The National Institute of Health reports  that sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down, thus when you are sleep deprived you tend to eat more.

Further, sleep affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep and Infertility Treatment (IVF)

Research has also shown that women who get an adequate amount of sleep have significantly improved rates of success with IVF. Infertility doctors (reproductive endocrinologist) routinely ask about their patients sleep habit before IVF. Research has shown that patients who keep to the same bedtimes and wake up times will have higher success rates with IVF.

Sleep and Male Infertility

Sleep is important for male fertility as well. Recent research looking at more than 700 men found that men who slept less than 6 or more than 9 hours a night had a 42 percent reduced probability of conception in any given month.

Researchers believe that the impact of sleep on male fertility is likely hormonal. Testosterone is crucial for reproduction and sleep is crucial for testosterone production. The majority of daily testosterone release in men occurs during sleep. Numerous studies have shown that the length and quality of sleep impacts testosterone levels in men.

Sleep Helps Us Cope with Infertility

Infertility is stressful. That one sentence may win the award for Understatement of the Year.

Infertility demands that we make decision, solve problems, and cope with stress. And we need to do all this without losing our cool and alienating those around us. Do you know the one thing that helps us make decision, solve problems, cope with stress and regulate our emotions? Yep—sleep.

The National Institute of Health reports that numerous studies have shown that people who do not get enough sleep may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling their emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression.

How Much Sleep Do We Need for Optimum Fertility

Perhaps surprisingly, more is not necessarily better when it comes to sleep. For both women and men the best amount of sleep to optimizes fertility appears to be between 7 to 8 hours.

In a study of 656 women having IVF, they found those who had between seven and eight hours sleep a night were about 25% more likely to become pregnant than those who got nine+ hours or six or less hours.

Although this study focused on women using IVF to get pregnant, it suggests that all women trying for a baby would benefit from having seven or eight hours sleep a night. The researchers suggested women should start working on improving their sleep at least three weeks before trying to conceive.

How much sleep do you get at night? What are your tricks for getting a better night’s sleep?

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Image credit: Tiffany Terry