Sleep deprivation hinders fertility in women

It is well known that the recommended amount of sleep is around 7-8 hours a day, and there are well known consequences for not getting these hours too often, including grumpiness and drowsiness.

However, missing sleep could have more problematic consequences for women who are attempting to conceive. Optimal health and wellbeing cannot be achieved without adequate rest. In addition to this, lack of sleep causes the endocrine system to start to malfunction.

This is bad for fertility as the endocrine system has control of the body’s hormones. The lack of sleep can lead to a lack of leptin. Leptin is used for regulating weight and appetite, as well as playing a key part in female fertility. When a woman sleeps inadequately, leptin levels usually decrease, which can cause irregular ovulation and/or decreased or irregular menstrual cycles. Nonetheless, an American study (the National Sleep Foundation’s 1998 Women and Sleep Poll) showed that an average American woman aged 30-60 sleeps for only 6 hours and 41 minutes a night during the working week.

A study in Boston shows the importance of leptin to female fertility. The subjects were fourteen female athletes. This meant they had stopped menstruating five years before the study. They had body fat 40% lower than an average woman. Some recieved leptin; the rest functioned as controls. It only took three months of the treatment for the women who were given leptin supplements to resume their menstrual cycles and for their ovaries to begin working normally again. There was no change in the control group. Since the amount of leptin can decline with insufficient sleep, the study therefore proves those women endeavouring to conceive should ensure they have sufficient leptin: If possible by attaining the correct quantity of sleep.

If you are suffering problems with conceiving, then a good sleep regime might help – but be sure to speak to your GP as well. Tuesday 8th September 2009

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