How your body clock helps in optimizing fertility
Artificial light near your bed or interrupted sleep patterns could negatively impact your natural fertility. The body’s instinctive sleep patterns, your circadian rhythms, are guided by signals to the brain that produce melatonin, the chemical that makes you feel sleepy. Ideally, when it’s dark, your suprachiasmatic nucleus, SCN, assumes it’s time to sleep, and so your melatonin spikes. What happens when lighting, or working the night shift, tricks the system?
Good Housekeeping Magazine recently featured an article detailing a fertility study that exposed mice to artificial light at night. “This Sleeping Habit Can Hurt Your Chances of Getting Pregnant” shared the results: Pregnancy rates in middle-aged mice declined from 70 percent to 10 percent when researchers left the lights on overnight.
Fertility Associates of Memphis physicians hear from women concerned about environmental and lifestyle factors that can decrease their chances for becoming pregnant. In this case, opting for a completely dark room and regular nighttime shut-eye appears to help in mice. We can presuppose that good sleep patterns can prove beneficial in humans, too.
What is melatonin and how does it factor in to optimizing fertility?
First, let’s look at where melatonin is produced. The pineal gland sits right behind the optic nerve, so it is affected by light/dark patterns. Melatonin is a pineal hormone that makes us feel tired; it also affects the production of estrogen and progesterone and the timing of your menstrual cycles. Corresponding signals from the pituitary gland instruct the ovaries to grow and mature follicles so that a woman will ovulate each month.
Constant jet lag, working night shifts or artificial light, like a phone or TV that illuminates the bedroom, can set in motion an unhealthy cycle of hormonal imbalance. A dark environment prompts the relaxation response, but artificial lights instruct the body to wake up and slow down melatonin production.
You may consider helping Mother Nature along with a melatonin supplement, but there is no convincing evidence to support its use during fertility treatment, says Dr. Amelia Bailey with Fertility Associates of Memphis.
Lifestyle changes, sleep patterns and dietary habits can enhance fertility in women without significant anatomic or hormonal barriers. Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep won’t re-open blocked fallopian tubes or replenish ovarian reserve.
If you are over 35 and suspect that you may have underlying fertility issues preventing you from becoming pregnant, it’s time to contact a fertility specialist. We will shed light on the problem.