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Can sleep affect fertility?

Sleep plays an important role in our physical and mental health. When we sleep, our body is busy restoring and regulating fertility hormones such as those produced by the pituitary gland (a pea-sized gland at the base of our brain), the thyroid gland and the adrenal glands. Any disturbance or lack of sleep will invariably cause imbalance in these hormones.

With the advent of artificial light, curtailing the hours of sleep is becoming a norm in our society, Sleep has been reduced to the minimum tolerable so that more time is available for work or leisure.

This reduction in the quantity and quality of sleep are increasingly recognised as important factors affecting female fertility. Recent studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and a decrease in the production of reproductive hormones. When these hormones decline, conception becomes difficult.

Sleep disorders can also affect the male. Sleep apnoea, a condition when breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, can negatively impact the hormonal system. Men who suffer from sleep apnoea produce very low levels of male hormone, testosterone. Sleep-deprived men also produce fewer sperm, the quality of which is also compromised. Fatigue due to lack of sleep may lead to chronic stress and performance anxiety. This may cause erectile dysfunction and diminished sexual drive resulting in further reduction in the chances of conception.

Below are some of the suggestions to help sleep-deprived couples improve fertility:

· Establish a healthy sleep pattern: Be strict in the sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep in the weekends

· Do not sleep for prolonged periods in the day so as not to upset your sleep cycle

· Exercise regularly but not before bedtime

· Avoid drinking coffee, tea and alcohol at night

· Stop smoking

· Avoid medications that may interfere with sleep

· Start a relaxing bedtime routine: Take a warm bath. Dim the lights and keep the temperature of your bedroom cool.

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