Researchers looked at nearly 7,000 women in a cohort between the ages of 21 and 45 years who were trying to get pregnant. They were surveyed as to their average sleep duration and the difficulties they were having with regards to sleep. The presence of shift work patterns, which often involves sleeping during the day or sleeping at odd hours because of work obligations, was also looked at. They then followed these women for one year or until they got pregnant.

Women were divided into those who slept less than six hours a day, up to women who slept longer than nine hours a day on average. They found that getting less sleep was closely connected to fertility problems compared to those who got a lot of sleep. Women who had more difficulty sleeping also had a harder time getting pregnant. The chances of getting pregnant were about 64% in those who had trouble sleeping more than half of the time, while 76% of women got pregnant over the course of a year if they didn’t have sleep difficulties. Hormones can A lack of sleep in men and women is regulated by the melatonin and cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is increased with stress while stress alone can impact sleep quality. A lack of sleep can affect your luteinizing hormone or LH surge, which is the major trigger for ovulation in women. This can make it more difficult to get pregnant.

Lack of adequate sleep can cause you to feel irritable and moody, which could affect your romantic relationship. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity can get worse with lack of sleep. These diseases can also affect your ability to get pregnant.

Once pregnant there is an increased risk to you and your baby. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in what are called “pro-inflammatory cytokines”, which promote inflammation in the body. These increases are linked to a higher risk of preterm birth and postpartum depression. Other risks to your pregnancy include an increased risk of gestational delivery, low birth weight and stillbirth. No one knows if these too are related to an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. Exactly how much sleep you should get isn’t known either but most sleep specialists recommend you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.

Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep quality:

  • Spend some time outdoors. Try to get outside for a short walk or just spend some time in the sunshine. People who get outdoors, especially if they exercise, will have better sleep quality.
  • Try to work the same shift all the time. While this study didn’t show a relationship between shift work and loss of fertility, other studies have shown a correlation. It makes sense to have a regular sleeping pattern in order to have quality sleep.
  • Try to slow your mind down before sleep. Try not to watch action movies or pay bills before bedtime. Let your mind relax before sleeping so you can get to sleep in a timely fashion.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep in the dark, don’t use phones or tablets before sleep, sleep in a calm environment, and avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine before bedtime. While exercise helps sleep, exercising right before bedtime is too stimulating and will interfere with sleep.
  • Know how much sleep you need. Every person is different as to how much sleep is enough for them. This may be less than 8 hours or more than 8 hours.
  • Try herbal tea before bed. A warm cup of tea before bed such as Chamomile, Skullcap, Passionflower, Lavender or Kava are some good choices or choose one of many popular nighttime blends.