Optimizing Sleep for Fertility

...Take all the sleep you need. You may expect to be well. - James Freeman Clarke

We know good sleep is foundational for good health and accept the idea that most people need at least 8 hours of sleep to function optimally.  But why is sleep so important for our fertility?  How can we ensure that our sleep is truly restorative? 

Normal, healthy sleep benefits our bodies in so many ways.  Some of the things it aids and regulates include:

  • Detox
  • Breakdown of hormones
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Cortisol levels

When these things are happening they create optimal hormone cycles and feedback.  Detox allows our bodies to process and dispose of toxins that can directly or indirectly impair thyroid, sex hormone, and reproductive function.  Proper breakdown of hormones ensures that we do not end of with excess estrogen in our systems, which leads to an improper balance of estrogen and progesterone.  A healthy circadian rhythm helps support melatonin which has shown to be linked to ovarian function.   Optimal cortisol levels supports hormone production and adrenal health.

Additionally, when these functions and processes are regulated we experience improvements in mood, immune function, mental clarity, energy, and will power, which impacts the decisions we make all day long.  Watch a show or go for a walk?  Pack a snack or grab something out of a vending machine?  Take some quiet time or distract ourselves online?  We all make some less optimal choices occasionally, but the more disruption there is to our sleep, the more likely we are to opt for the not so optimal activities.  And these choices and their consequences in turn impact the quality of our sleep, our health, and reproductive wellness.  Even gut health is impacted by sleep.  Poor sleep leads to an imbalance in digestion which in turn leads to disrupted sleep.  

How do we stop the cycle?  One way is to begin with sleep as your starting point.  Remember, any shift toward improved sleep causes positive shifts in overall health and function which supports fertility. 

So what should we focus on?  The 3 sleep factors include quantity, quality, and timing.

Sleep Quantity:  How much sleep should you get? 

  • You want to sleep at least 7 hours, your body may need closer to 8 or 9 to thrive
  • If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, or are otherwise depleted, you may need closer to 10 hours

Sleep Quality:  What can you do to ensure restorative sleep?

1. What you can do during the day:

  • Get early morning light exposure
  • Move!  Get some exercise in early in the day
  • Avoid alcohol and coffee

2. Wind down in the 1-2 hours before bed:

  • Finish eating 2-3 hours prior to bed
  • Avoid screens, or if you must use screens, wear blue light blocking glasses
  • Choosing relaxing activities and put aside work - read fiction, take a bath

3. Bedroom environment:

  • Keep it cool, dark, and clutter free

Sleep Timing:  When should you go to bed?

  • Before 10pm - this will help keep your cortisol levels in check and you can avoid the disregulation that happens with a 2nd wind (when you push past your bedtime, your body has a stress response)

While sleep is a critical component to health and healing, and should be a part of any wellness plan, sometimes more support is needed.  Seeking out the support of skilled health care professionals, functional or integrative doctors, nutritionists, and health coaches, who can work with you to provide knowledge and support can make all the difference.  If you think you may need more evaluation and guidance, don't hesitate to reach out and find a good fit - you are worth it!

Up next, we will share some tips that shift workers can use to help support their sleep and fertility.