If you’re just starting out trying to conceive (TTC) or you’re well down the road and wondering if it’ll ever happen, chances are you’re a little stressed and sleepless. Luckily there are ways to tackle your sleep issues – and help your fertility too
When you’re trying for a baby, the last thing you want is to be stressed and unable to sleep – but everything from getting a grip on your ovulation dates to fertility treatment results in sleepless nights for many couples. Your doctor advises you to relax and get plenty of rest but it’s a vicious circle. Are you infertile because you are stressed, or are you stressed because you are infertile?
Several studies have found a link between stress and lack of sleep and fertility. Danish researchers found that men who reported sleep disturbances had a 29 percent lower concentration of sperm in their semen, as well as a higher likelihood of having ‘fewer morphologically normal spermatozoa,’ compared to their well rested counterparts.
And it’s not just men. Sleep deprivation has been linked to infertility in women too. Sleep has a powerful influence on the body's hormonal system, which controls a woman's monthly cycle and regulates ovulation. Women who don’t get their eight hours can suffer with low leptin levels, the hormone responsible for appetite and which can also impact ovulation.
Added to that, insomniacs have been shown to have a much higher level of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropic, both of which can suppress fertility.
If you’re trying to conceive (TTC) and not getting much sleep for all the wrong reasons – there’s plenty you can do
Exercise is proven to help counteract the effects of stress. As well as releasing feel-good endorphins, physical activity can improve your libido and help you get a good night’s sleep.
Brisk walking, swimming and yoga are all good choices. If you lack motivation, try exercising with a friend or join a sports group, like a netball or hockey club, in your area. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may also help improve your chances of conception.
Learn to relax
As anyone who has experienced fertility problems will know, the constant monthly disappointments can be heartbreaking. One group of US researchers concluded that women who couldn’t conceive felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer or recovering from a heart attack.
Advice like ‘relax’ and ‘put things out of your mind’ is easier said than done – but if you can find a way to take your mind off things, even for a while, your general wellbeing will benefit – and there’s a chance your fertility will too.
If relaxing doesn’t come easy to you, try meditation classes or borrow a few relaxation CDs from your local library until you find one that works for you.
Listen to relaxation CDs, practise breathing exercises or do gentle yoga or Tai Chi just before bed to help you unwind and relax.
Talk to your partner
Undergoing fertility treatment can take its toll on a relationship. You might think you know what your partner is going through – but his emotions may be different to yours, particularly if he’s the one who has the problem.
Ask your partner how they are feeling and listen to his concerns and worries. Scheduling sex for when you’re ovulating isn’t the most romantic thing – so spend time relaxing and being intimidate with one another throughout the month. And don’t let the conversation turn to babies. This is about couple time.
If worries are keeping you awake at night try writing them down during the day. Allow yourself 30 minutes to focus on your concerns, and then put the piece of paper away. If your mind wanders back to them, tell yourself that you will focus on the issues again tomorrow morning – and then steer the conversation or your thoughts in another direction.
Fertility drugs and insomnia
It’s worth remembering that some fertility drugs can cause sleep problems. Insomnia is a listed side effect for clomifene citrate (clomid) – a drug treatment that stimulates your ovaries to release eggs. If you’re taking the drug and experience side effects, speak to your GP.
Sort your sleep routine
You probably know all the usual advice for insomnia – just make sure you follow it. This includes things like cutting back on caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola and chocolate), avoiding heavy meals too close to bed time, staying away from the wine (alcohol may help you drop off initially but will dehydrate you an result in poorer quality sleep), taking a warm bath before bed, having a massage and spending time winding down.
You probably know all the usual advice for insomnia – just make sure you follow it
If you can’t sleep, it’s better to get out of bed and do something else for half an hour or so. Read a book, watch a movie or have a drink of warm milk. The worst thing you can do is add to your anxiety by staring at the clock and worrying that you aren’t getting enough sleep!