Assessing fertility isn’t all about menstrual cycles and sperm production.
Lifestyle really does play an important part in fertility, and one of the key foundations to a healthy system is good sleep. For both of you. Sleep is one of those fundamental aspects of health that will impact both male and female fertility.
When we sleep, we make melatonin.
Melatonin is a very important antioxidant for the ovaries.
Melatonin is also really important for sperm production.
If we have poor sleep habits, we may make less melatonin which in turn may mean a poorer ovarian environment and poorer sperm production due to higher level of oxidative stress.
There is more to it than this. In the small hours of the morning, about half way between sunset and sunrise we do our best internal audit and detox - the liver up-regulates to give the system a deep clean, filtering toxins more effectively from the blood and moving them into the bowels for elimination. For both partners, when you are deeply asleep in the small hours of the morning, your liver detox function lifts up. If deep sleep is limited, the liver’s ability to detox and keep the blood fresh and clean is hampered – this in turn will impact the way the whole system runs (hormone regulation, follicle growth, sperm development etc). This reasonably new piece of scientific information is something the ancient Chinese medicine system has known about for millennia, we refer to that time between 1am - 3am as Liver time, the time when the Liver is in a really important phase.
So this is an area I pay close attention to.
- Are you falling asleep easily?
- Do you sleep soundly and stay asleep all night?
- Do you wake up easily in the morning (ideally with or just before your alarm clock)?
- Is your energy good in the mornings?
If you answered ‘YES’ to all of these, that is great.
If you answered ‘NO’ to some or all of these, then it is time to tackle sleep issues head on as it really can have a big impact on fertility.
When I ask about sleep, it's not just about the timing of your sleep that I am interested in. I ask questions about night sweats or hot flushes in the night – these have strong implications on health and fertility from a Chinese Med diagnostic perspective. This information can also mean things from a western med perspective - for instance, if a man has night sweats, it would prompt me to want to check his thyroid function and his testosterone, FSH and LH levels.
I ask questions about whether your sleep feels restful, or if it is plagued by dreams and nightmares - if so, from a Chinese med perspective, this may mean I pay more attention to Liver energy.
Acupuncture can be an amazing treatment for poor sleep, but if that is outside of your zone of comfort then look to other tried and tested ways of improving sleep.
- Consider a regular mindfulness and meditation habit
- Dim lights in the house after dark
- Put tech away an hour or two before bed
- Cut out caffeine completely if you sleep badly
- Consider a white noise app at night
If you used to sleep badly and now sleep like a log, what helped you? If you can identify what you did to improve your sleep pattern, you may be able to use it to help you to maintain a better sleep pattern.