Is Poor Sleep Leaving You Infertile?

These days, we are so busy, filling our schedules to the brim with various events. Have you forgotten what it feels like to be truly “well rested”? Too often, our time for sleep is sacrificed before we give up other activities. If you think this is your current situation, you are not alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that “More than one third of Americans don’t get enough sleep”.1 Undoubtedly, every one of us could benefit from implementing a few strategies to improve sleep.

Though the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7- 9 hours of sleep per night, for adults aged 18 to 64, it’s important to determine your own needs based on assessing how you feel after different amounts of sleep.2 Keep this in mind as you set out to change your sleep health!

A Biological Indicator to Optimal Pregnancy Circumstances  

Biologically, poor sleep tells our bodies we are not ready for reproduction. From an evolutionary perspective, insomnia can be perceived as a life threat by our bodies, which then signals that the optimal circumstances for reproduction are not present.3 By improving one’s sleeping habits or disorders, the potential for natural conception or responses to fertility treatments will be greatly increased.3

So You Didn’t Get a Good’s Night Rest – Does It Really Matter?

What happens in your body when you lack sleep? It may be difficult to imagine, but the main effects are that of stress and libido. Sleep is a time not only for your mind to take a break, but also for your cells to repair themselves and for your body systems to regulate. Sleep regulates stress hormones and keeps the nervous system functioning properly – without enough sleep, the whole body takes a toll and one’s mood, energy, and even appetite will be affected.4

In terms of reproductive health, high stress levels have been shown to influence ovary and follicle size, progesterone levels and amenorrhea in women.1 It has the potential to impair fertility, especially in the cases of chronic (long-term) stress.

Another equally important factor in fertility is libido – a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine has shown that a good night’s rest is essential to enhance one’s sex drive. This is true for both men and women. Multiple studies have found that individuals are more interested in sex when they slept longer the previous day.5 In fact, sleep quality and sexual health are deeply interrelated – getting enough sleep ensures you have the libido and energy for sex, and sex can help you sleep better (of course, it’s not the only way to have a good’s night rest!).

The Connection Between Sleep And Your Hormones 

Surprisingly, the hormones needed for proper sleep/wake functions and reproduction are controlled by the same part of the brain.6 Thus, long-term lack of sleep directly affects the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which affects ovulation – making it more difficult to conceive.1 Similarly, sleep loss also lowers levels of testosterone in healthy young men.7 Proper levels of reproductive hormones are needed for successful ovulation, conception and implantation – and sleep plays a critical role in every stage. Some studies have even shown that daily sleep of less than 6 hours is associated with a reduced chance of pregnancy.8

Sleep - The Essential Foundation of Good Mental Health

There are no shortages of studies showing the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on healthy hormone cycles. But in addition to these factors, the lack of sleep can also disrupt mood and increase irritability. In turn, this could indirectly affect conception.

Have you ever woken up from a sleep deprived night, feeling angry, depressed, or anxious? Even one sleepless night can cause these changes.9 On average, females tend to be more susceptible to decreased mood, anxiety, low energy, and brain fog, while males tend to increase physical and verbal aggression.9 Needless to say, these are all traits that could disrupt spousal relationships and are not very compatible with the ideal pregnancy opportunity.

Time for a Change - Easy Ways to Improve Sleep and Fertility 

If you are currently suffering from sleep deprivation or low-quality sleep, it’s not too late to make some easy but effective changes. There are many ways you can start improving your sleep today:

  1. Start with the first priority – schedule in at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night. Make sure it’s feasible with your current lifestyle!
  2. Make sure your bedroom is dark to signal to your body that it is time to sleep
  3. Avoid stimulants at least 5 hours before bedtime. This includes caffeine (which can keep you awake) and alcohol (which may help bring on sleep, but after a few hours acts as a stimulant, decreasing quality of sleep)!
  4. Relax before bedtime – before bed is not the time to watch a horror film or read your stress-inducing credit card bills!
  5. Get outside every day to replenish oxygen levels, relieve stress, enhance your mood and improve your circadian rhythm.
  6. Turn off your screens at least an hour before bed. It’s a difficult thing to follow if you’re used to scrolling before bed, but once you get into the habit of turning off electronics before preparing for bed, you will see a massive difference in your sleep quality!

Melatonin - the Supplement You Didn’t Know You Needed 

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. Its levels will typically increase about two hours before bedtime, if the environment is dark enough.10 This signals your body it is time to sleep. Though high levels are associated with falling asleep, melatonin doesn’t only affect sleep; it also affects the menstrual cycle and fertility.11,12

For both males and females, melatonin has been shown to protect sperm and egg from oxidative stress and inflammation.12 Specifically, for men, melatonin can stimulate flagellar motility essential for fertilization. For women, melatonin can improve egg and embryo quality by counteracting the normal local inflammatory response that occurs during ovulation. Adequate melatonin levels are thus needed for healthy eggs and sperm, in order to increase chances of successful conception and implantation.

There are many options to start improving your sleep quality today. However, if you have already made sleep a priority but cannot figure out why you are still drowsy and tired every morning, you may benefit from supplementing with melatonin. If lack of sleep continues, consult your functional nutrition or medical professional.


  1. Cornforth, T. (2019). Check Your Sleep Habits If You're Concerned About Fertility. Retrieved from
  2. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?. Retrieved from
  3. Kloss, J. D., Perlis, M. L., Zamzow, J. A., Culnan, E. J., & Gracia, C. R. (2015). Sleep, sleep disturbance, and fertility in women. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 22, 78–87. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.005
  4. Knight, D. (2019). This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Don't Get Enough Sleep. Retrieved from
  5. Schreiber, K. (2018). The Connection Between Sex and Sleep. Retrieved from
  6. Cornforth, T. (2019, August 30). Check Your Sleep Habits If You're Concerned About Fertility. Retrieved from
  7. R. Leproult, E. Van Cauter (2011). Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011; 305 (21): 2173 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2011.710
  8. ARC Fertility. (2019). Problems with Sleep? You Might Have Problems with Fertility, Too. Retrieved from
  9. Saghir, Z., Syeda, J. N., Muhammad, A. S., & Abdalla, T. H. B. (2018). The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection? Cureus. doi: 10.7759/cureus.2912
  10. John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work? Retrieved from
  11. Fernando, S., & Rombauts, L. (2014). Melatonin: shedding light on infertility? - a review of the recent literature. Journal of Ovarian Research, 7(98). doi: 10.1186/preaccept-1516771013137283
  12. Raman, R. (2017). How Melatonin can help you sleep and feel better. Retrieved from
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