Couples who are trying to conceive get plenty of advice: from eating healthy food, to getting plenty of exercise, staying active, and even reducing levels of unwanted or unnecessary stress. Quite often, however, many health professionals neglect to advise their patients to get enough sleep. Despite its value as not only a means of rest, but also a window of opportunity for biological functions to promote a healthy physiological balance, sleep is consistently overlooked for its merits.
In the Philippines, sleep deprivation is prevalent, with a number of professionals leading a lifestyle incompatible with adequate rest. Men and women in this country risk their overall health as well, as they develop unhealthy habits that are counterproductive to their general wellbeing, but are instead a misguided attempt to function in the real world.
Adequate sleep intervals allow for the release of hormones that are beneficial to the body, especially for processes involved with immune system function. Sleep modulates the hypothalamus in both the release and inhibition of factors that trigger the synthesis or release of hormones, influencing the function of the pituitary gland.
For example, growth hormone, responsible for the promotion of healing injured tissue and stimulating growth is released during sleep; whereas corticotropin-releasing hormone, which is released during stress, is inhibited. Conversely, the lack of sleep compromises the body’s immune system, increases stress, impairs a healthy metabolism, and undermines overall general health.
The following is a list of some side effects of sleep deprivation:
• Impaired cognition and decision-making, leading to accidents
• Emotional lability, due to low serotonin and increased cortisol
• Decreased fertility and libido
• Abnormal hormone secretion
• Impaired immune system function and slow healing
• Increased risk of developing chronic illness (metabolic syndrome, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes)
Reproductive health for both men and women is dependent on healthy, consistent sleep patterns. Most healthcare professionals encourage adults to get from seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Since hormones, which are strongly modulated by sleep and circadian rhythms, are inextricably linked to the human reproductive and immune systems, sleep deprivation can lead to fertility problems.
For men, sperm counts have been seen to decrease up to several months after an episode of illness, such as the common cold. Additionally, men are more prone to erectile dysfunction when they are deprived of sleep. Women, on the other hand, experience decreased vaginal lubrication. Without adequate sleep, men and women have a lower sex drive, which not only reduces the number of attempts to conceive, but also diminishes the quality of their relationship.
Women undergoing IVF cycles are strongly encouraged to get enough sleep, especially since the hormones and other medical treatments must be correctly synthesized, utilized and metabolized by the body. Since IVF success is dependent on the interactions of many hormones, there is little room for compromise when it comes to getting enough sleep.