Could THIS be the thing that helps you to conceive?
If you’re trying to conceive #TTC at the moment, firstly my thoughts , love and excitement are with you. Secondly if you have been TTC for some time now and are experiencing difficulties, you may want to skip the first two paragraphs if you’re likely to be triggered by reading about pregnancy loss. However, do read on thereafter; this could be helpfully new and relevant information for you!
The start of the new year was a challenge for me; I’d spent much of November and December living-in with Postnatal Clients and supporting them throughout the day and night with their newborns. Being with babies always makes me feel a bit broody, so you can imagine my delight on 31st December when I realised my period was 10 days late (VERY unusual for me) and there was a high probability of me being pregnant. A few days later and still no period, I took a test with baited breath before being utterly stunned by the negative result. How was this possible? Maybe I tested too early. I waited another few days and just before doing a second test, I started bleeding.
This was no normal ‘period’. I was nauseous, vomited, doubled-over in pain. I stayed in bed for 3 whole days, unable to straighten up, too sick to go out. Was I miscarrying? Another pregnancy test suggested not; still a negative result so likely this was a late period. A visit to the doctors confirmed these symptoms were associated with late menstruation and not pregnancy. I was gutted (but that’s another blog post!) and SO confused about why my body had (as I felt) ‘tricked’ me into thinking I was pregnant.
So I started researching and was fascinated to discover that sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep patterns can cause havoc with your menstrual cycle. Things started to make sense; I’d experienced delayed ovulation due to recurrent night wakings and sleep deprivation in November and December which had in turn caused the delay in my period coming. Mystery solved.
I read on, curious about how disturbed sleep might be impacting other women’s fertility and chances of conceiving.
Whilst there is a dearth in knowledge about this particular topic, there are convincing theories that a woman’s hormonal system can be negatively impacted by sleep disturbance in numerous ways.
There are a number of known and widely accepted causes of infertility; Organic (e.g. anovulation, tubal obstruction); Iatrogenic (e.g. adverse effects of chemotherapy or radiation); and lifestyle (e.g. weight, nutrition, substance use etc.). In addition, the stress associated with infertility can itself contribute to infertility.
Sleep deprivation impacts a range of ‘normal’ bodily functions including the suppression or augmentation of reproductive hormones. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in high levels can cause anovulation, recurrent miscarriages, amenorrhea and menstrual irregularities. TSH levels increase just before the onset of sleep and continue to rise throughout the night. The levels then diminish throughout the day. When sleep deprivation occurs among healthy young women in the follicular phase, TSH has been observed to increase to significantly high levels.
Sleep also impacts the regulation of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) production, which under normal sleep patterns would pulse in increasing and decreasing surges to trigger ovulation. Acute sleep deprivation can throw these surges out of sync, thus impacting the timing or occurrence of ovulation.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) levels have been found in one study to be 20% lower amongst women who are short sleepers compared to long sleeper (8+ hours).
Estradiol regulates FSH and LH production, playing a critical role in ovulation, and has been shown to increase in women of reproductive age under partial sleep deprivation. Women with irregular sleep patterns also have higher levels of Estradiol that women with regular sleep patterns.
Other hormones that are involved in the reproductive cycle and are potentially impacted by sleep deprivation are testosterone, progesterone, anti-mullerrian hormone and prolactin.
It is also hypothesised that circadian dysrhythmia may interfere with fertility and contribute to adverse reproductive outcomes such as pregnancy loss, pre-term labour and impaired foetal development. Female nurses working shifts were observed in one study to be at greater risk of such adverse outcomes.
Circadian dysrhythmia may also impact upon insulin resistance, giving rise to infertility, as well as melatonin production. Increased Melatonin levels have been associated with amenorrhea due to its ability to inhibit ovulation.
As you can see, regularly restorative and undisturbed sleep, at times that are appropriate for the circadian rhythm can make a huge difference in your body.
SO, if you’re TTC atm and are in good health, you might like yo consider your sleep habbits and patterns.