How sleep affects fertility and how to improve yours
One of the simplest things you can do to boost your fertility can also be the most elusive –improving your sleep.
If you are trying to conceive and you find it difficult to fall or to stay asleep, or if you don’t feel rested in the morning, keep reading.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the four major players in a woman’s fertility are the spleen, liver, heart, and kidney. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the easiest ways to build spleen qi, nourish liver blood, regulate heart qi, and regenerate kidney yin and yang.
More specifically, getting enough good quality sleep gives you adequate liver blood, which is necessary to maintain heart blood. Bad quality sleep, or not enough sleep leads to deficient heart blood, causing anxiety and restlessness, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. When this occurs, a communication system known as the Bao Mai is interrupted, which carries signals from the heart to the uterus, causing menstrual irregularities and increased risk of miscarriage. Furthermore, lack of good quality sleep means lack of good quality Yin, which causes excess Yang in the form of stress hormones.
According to western medicine, the part of the brain that controls wake and sleep cycles is the same part of the brain that controls reproductive hormones in both women and men. In fact, the quality and quantity of sleep influences sex hormones, sperm production, and ovulation. Lack of sleep negatively effects ovulation, and can cause menstrual irregularities and delayed conception. Additionally, testosterone production for men occurs at night, and lack of sleep reduces optimal testosterone levels.
Both western and eastern medicine agree, sleep has a huge impact on your fertility, for better or worse. If you struggle with sleep, try some of my favorite sleep inducing tips tonight. It might be just the thing to shift the hormonal environment in your body.
Tips to improve your sleep:
- Stick to a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. We are all creatures of habit, and once this habit sticks, your body will thank you.
- Don’t use your bedroom as a work environment. Associating your bedroom with the stress of work can keep you wide awake all night, running things-to-do lists in your head. In Chinese Medicine, we call that Monkey Mind.
- Keep entertainment electronics out of the room such as TV, phone or iPad for the same reason. Plus, the electromagnetic field they emit is not healthy to be around 24 hours a day.
- Eliminate or greatly reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption. I know this is a tough one, but try it for two weeks and see how you feel. Even though drinking a glass of wine before bed might seem to help with falling asleep, you’ll probably find yourself wide awake between 1:00am and 3:00am. This is because it’s the liver time of day, and if the liver has a lot to detox, it will overheat and wake you up. Coffee can add to that load on the liver, also waking you up at night.
- Exercising outdoors helps align the brain and body with natural biorhythms and benefits the pineal gland. The more you’re outside, the more your body naturally recognizes when it’s appropriate to be awake, and when it’s time to be asleep.
- Wind down before bed. Make a before bedtime ritual and do it every night. Brew a cup of calming herbal tea, read a few pages of a book or write in a journal, take a bath, meditate, do some gentle yoga or Tai Chi. Whatever calms you. Just no screen time 1-2 hours before bed.
- Eat a small Yin nourishing snack before bed such as whole grain crackers, cheese, turkey, fig, date, apricot, banana, a small glass of milk or milk alternative.
- Stretch. Doing a simple forward bend, holding a position that feels comfortable for 2-5 minutes will relax your nervous system and tell the body that it’s time to rest.
- Sprinkle a few drops of lavender or jasmine essential oil on your pillow to feel instantly relaxed and calm. This will also elevate your mood.
- Wear an eye mask or darken your shades. It’s important to sleep in a very dark room to maintain healthy sleep cycles. Blocking out as much light as possible will send you into a deeper, more restful sleep.
- Take a foot bath. Fill a big enough pot or bowl with warm water and relax while soaking your feet for 30 minutes. This will activate certain acupuncture points on the feet and ankles that help with falling and staying asleep.