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Study sheds light on 3 surprising links between sleep deprivation and female fertility

Research has proven that sleep deprivation affects both your mental and physical health. Data from studies have also found that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact female fertility. In a study published in the journal Sleep, scientists reported that women with insomnia are at least four times more likely to have fertility issues, unlike women who get enough sleep at night.

But how does sleep quality affect female fertility? The answer seems to lie in the role of sleep in all stages of the fertility process starting from menstruation, all the way to conception and birth.

Sleep deprivation and menstruation

A study published in the journal Health Care Women International examined night shift workers to determine how poor sleep affects people in the real world. For this study, researchers from the University of Washington worked with 68 female nurses younger than 40. After studying the sleep quality of the volunteers, researchers found that most of the nurses had sleep issues and that some suffered more than others.

The findings revealed that 53 percent of the nurses had menstrual changes as their shiftwork began. The women who reported menstrual irregularities also had one hour less sleep at night, unlike those who didn’t report menstrual changes. This study suggests that shiftwork exposes the nurses to artificial light at night and that they sleep during the day, which changes their natural circadian rhythm.

While some of the participants adjusted to this disruption better than others, those who were less tolerant experienced sleep problems that then changed their natural menstrual rhythm.

Sleep deprivation and conception

Sleep deprivation negatively affects the hormones of both men and women. Women who want to conceive must monitor their follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. If you’re healthy, FSH reaches its highest point right before ovulation.

FSH helps prepare your ovaries for the release of an egg. When examining pregnant women, physicians first test for FSH to determine the cause of any fertility issues.

Well, it turns out skimping on sleep reduces the amount of FSH that is produced. In the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers discovered that women who only had six hours of sleep or less every night have 20 percent less FSH than those who slept eight hours, highlighting the importance of sleep quality during the conception stage. (Related: Study finds that eating fast food has a negative effect on pregnancy rates by lowering fertility in women.)

Sleep deprivation and pregnancy complications

Even if you’re already pregnant, you still need to get enough sleep each night. After all, sleep deprivation can still affect your chances of successfully carrying the baby to term. Several studies have found that sleep deprivation is linked to pregnancy complications in the following ways:

  • Pregnant women on night shifts or irregular shifts double their risk of suffering from a miscarriage.
  • Pregnant women who work long hours, e.g., over 100 hours weekly, in their first trimester and experience sleep deprivation are at least twice as likely to have a preterm delivery (10 percent compared to five percent).
  • Pregnant women who get less than six hours of sleep every night experience nine more hours of labor on average, unlike well-rested women (29 hours compared to 20 hours).
  • Pregnant women who get less than six hours of sleep each night are four-and-a-half times more likely to have a cesarean birth.

While health experts have yet to determine the exact link, data suggests that sleep deprivation during pregnancy increases inflammation, which often causes pregnancy complications.

Tips to improve sleep quality

If you are already pregnant, it’s important to focus on your fitness, diet and sleep quality. Sleep for at least eight hours every night to ensure that you and your baby are in good health during your pregnancy.

If you have trouble sleeping at night, follow the tips below:

  • Don’t drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks too close to your bedtime.
  • Follow a balanced diet and avoid eating a heavy meal for dinner.
  • Try relaxing activities like meditation or reading to get you in the mood to sleep.
  • Put your phone away before you go to bed so you don’t disrupt your circadian rhythm.

Practice healthy habits and sleep eight hours every night to boost your overall health and improve your chances of conceiving.

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