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Tammy Enders, RN, BSN, OCN @ Carolina Conceptions

We all know the benefits of a good night sleep. This is when our bodies take the time to repair and rejuvenate. If we do not get enough sleep, our systems such as immune and hormonal will suffer. This can become an issue when we are trying to conceive.

The changes in our hormonal status, due to lack of sleep, can lead to problems with energy levels, brain function and weight gain. Weight gain can lead to a bigger problem like increasing the risk for developing diabetes. In women, it can be associated with irregular menstrual cycles. Weight gain and irregular cycles can interfere with one’s ability to get pregnant.

The average woman between 30-60 years of age needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night but is averaging 6 hours and 41 minutes. Too little sleep can lower leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone responsible for appetite and can impact ovulation. Insomniacs have been shown to have higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenocorticotropic- both of which can suppress a healthy fertility cycle. Prolactin levels spike with sleep loss. This elevation in the hormone level can suppress ovulation in women. In men, it can decrease testosterone levels and the function of the testes leading to abnormal sperm. Sleep apnea in both men and women has been shown to increase prolactin levels. Sleep apnea treatment with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) has been shown to bring those levels down.

Here are some easy ways to increase the amount and quality of your sleep patterns:

  • Be consistent with your sleep routine- try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Try not to nap during the day
  • Exercise daily- but not too close to bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes
  • Keep the room that you sleep in around 70-72 degrees and dim the lights
  • If you think that you may have sleep apnea, get an assessment to see if a CPAP machine would be of benefit

So while you are trying to eat better, lowering your stress, exercising, and monitoring your monthly cycles in preparation to become pregnant, don’t forget to get your 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It is a simple thing to do and the rewards can be great. Plus- you can store up on all that sleep you will be missing out on once the baby comes along!