01 Sep Healthy Sleep Habits Support Fertility
Living a healthy lifestyle is a critical component of fertility, including your sleep habits. Questions about why we need sleep and what happens while we sleep remained largely unanswered until the last several decades. All we could do was theorize.
Today, innovations in brain imaging and our ability to test for hormone balance have taught us much about the importance of sleep on wellbeing and how interrupted or irregular sleep patterns negatively impact fertility.
Improving Sleep Habits Increases Fertility Outcomes
Forty years of fertility research and data prove that with or without an infertility diagnosis, women are more likely to conceive and carry a healthy, full-term baby when they:
- Pay attention to their menstrual cycles and address any irregularities
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid smoking, drinking excess alcohol, and cannabis products
- Exercise moderately and often
- Manage their weight
- Create a varied collection of stress management tools
- Getting their male partner on board (male fertility is as important as female fertility)
It makes sense that getting a good night’s sleep is another piece of that puzzle.
Among other things, it is responsible for regulating hormone balance and boosting the immune system – two essential features when trying to get pregnant. Irregular sleep patterns range from insomnia or frequent interruptions to working night shifts (earning a reputation as the “infertility shift”). In addition, women who experience long-term irregular sleep patterns are at a higher risk for:
- Skipping ovulation or missing your menstrual cycle entirely
- Lower embryo implantation rate with IVF
- Increased miscarriage risk
Tips to Experience a Good Night’s Sleep – Every Night
If sleep eludes you or you know you’re prone to skipping sleep to catch up on work, shows, or social media – now is the time to prioritize a good night’s sleep.
1. Establish consistent sleep/wake times
Our bodies are programmed to run on a circadian rhythm – waking up with the sunrise and going to bed at sunset. They like to wind down. Artificial light – including the light from screens – tricks them into thinking there’s daylight – sabotaging melatonin production. A healthy circadian rhythm also includes physical movement each day. By establishing consistent sleep/wake times, you begin to reset your body’s natural rhythm. From there, you can work on adding other essential elements of “sleep hygiene.”
Establish your body’s natural circadian rhythm by ignoring the clock and avoiding the TV or screens in the evening for 14 straight days. Then, when you begin to feel tired in the evening, go to bed – no matter what time it is. Don’t panic if it’s super early – that will adjust once you’re rested after a few nights in a row of adequate sleep. Then get out of bed in the morning when you wake up, rather than letting yourself doze off and on.
After 14 days, your body re-regulates, and you’ll have a good idea of your own natural sleep/wake rhythm. Try to create a sleep schedule that honors that.
2. Design a bedroom space that promotes rest
Do what you need to do to make your bedroom a relaxing oasis. No TVs (sorry!), no phones/gadgets (sorry again!), and no work (hurray!). By physically eliminating those from your room, your body develops a muscle memory associating your bedroom with rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
3. Avoid stimulants in the hours before bedtime
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should already eliminate alcohol, heavy caffeine use, and so on. If, however, you’re planning to get pregnant soon, pay attention to the things you eat and drink in the four to five hours before bedtime. Keep those hours caffeine-free and pass on processed sugars, alcohol, and other stimulants.
Don’t forget that light is also a stimulant for the brain because it views all light (except the red spectrum) as “sunlight.” So dim the lights at least an hour before bedtime, use blackout curtains if necessary, and cease all screen time at least 30 minutes before sleep time. This helps to stimulate the brain’s “sleep” chemistry.
4. Create a bedtime routine
We eluded to this in the circadian rhythm and restful bedroom sections, mentioning the importance of dimming the lights, and so on. Just as thinking about a favorite dish makes you salivate as you anticipate eating it, a bedtime routine helps the brain prepare for sleep. This is an excellent habit to cultivate before pregnancy as it’s a tradition you’ll continue with your little one. Implement relaxing practices that make sense for you, such as:
- Reading a book
- Writing in a journal (gratitude journal, perhaps…)
- Listening to relaxing music or a Yoga Nidra for sleep
- Use a diffuser with soothing essential oils
- Do a gentle nighttime stretching routine
- Take a warm shower or bath
Over time, participating in these pre-sleep rituals inherently prepares your body for a good night’s sleep.
5. Don’t oversleep
Finally, this isn’t a situation of “more equals more.” In studies examining female sleep patterns and fertility, women who oversleep (10 hours or more per night) are as likely to experience infertility rates as those who don’t get enough sleep.
A healthy adult female needs between 7 and 9 hours. You may need a little more when you aren’t feeling well, had a rough week, or have been more physically active than usual.
Are You Struggling to Get Pregnant?
All of the healthy lifestyle choices in the world may not be enough, however, depending on whether or not a specific cause has been found for your infertility. If you’re struggling to get pregnant, it’s time to consult a fertility specialist. Contact Virginia Fertility & IVF to schedule an appointment. Our award-winning team of specialists takes a well-rounded and personalized approach to fertility treatments.