Do You Work The ‘Infertility Shift?’

Saschan Fearon  |  4th Apr 2019

If you work the night shift research shows you may have a much harder time getting pregnant. Findings show that night shift workers have irregular menstrual cycles that can cause problems with conception.

The Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies are run by an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Regular patterns of light and dark help to keep our circadian rhythm functioning normally.

Night shift workers are more likely to have problems regulating their circadian rhythm.

“The circadian rhythm controls the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and cortisol (a stress hormone),” Metzger explains. “Night shift workers are constantly shifting their circadian rhythm, resulting in the same type of ‘jet lag’ that we associate with traveling to and from different time zones.”

The term “circadian” comes from Latin words “circa” about, and “dia” day. Each of us has an approximate 24 hour bodily cycle called the circadian clock which is based within the hypothalamus (structure within the brain).

The major circadian rhythm is the sleep/wake cycle. This clock acts as the body’s inner timekeeper, and is responsible for numerous biochemical functions to occur at specific times throughout the day and night.

The circadian clock controls

  • Neurotransmitters – chemicals released in the brain which allow impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another
  • Hormone production – chemical messengers which influence your fertility and mood
  • Enzymes – which catalyze chemical reactions
  • Behavior -including appetite
  • Body temperature- yep poor sleep could be contributing to your hot flushes!
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Metabolism
  • Libido

Studies suggest that both male and female fertility health can be adversely affected by disrupted sleep patterns.

The Reproductive Link

Regular disruptions to your day/night cycle can contribute towards disorders of the reproductive system. Most hormone secretion is controlled by the circadian clock and sleep has a major impact on the daily rhythms and levels secreted. Good sleeping habits support the body to re-establish regular rhythms, thus helping promote the regulation of your reproductive hormones. The effects of sleep deprivation can also increase miscarriage risk or cause pregnancy complications.

Sleep helps to keep your whole system healthy which is essential for promoting fertility levels. A low immune system can lead to health complaints and reproductive illnesses (male sperm count can drop for three – four months following sickness such as flu). Common medical problems associated with sleep deprivation can lead to reproductive health problems or infertility  – including increased risk of insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure, or increased stress.

Not Tonight Love…

Relationship difficulties are common when one partner is suffering from sleep deprivation. Loss of libido is common with men being increasingly prone to erectile dysfunction when exhausted, and women often experiencing vaginal dryness. Tiredness can also lead to fertility disrupting lifestyle factors (we’ve all suffered after that 4pm double espresso!). Irregular sleeping patterns can be detrimental to our normal biological functions. Neurotransmitters in the brain become altered leading to circadian rhythm disorder.

The side effects of sleep deprivation include an increased risk of –

  • Impaired cognitive functions – more prone to making mistakes and having accidents
  • Emotional instability – low seretonin (affects mood) and higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Hormonal irregularities
  • Fertility problems and decreased libido (male and female)
  • Lowered immunity, toxin buildup, and slower healing
  • Weight gain – low levels of leptin hormone (appetite inhibitor) high levels of ghrelin hormone (stimulates hunger)
  • Hypertension – high blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes – blood sugar disorders
  • Gastric problems and peptic ulcers
  • Increased risk of cancers – including  breast, endometrial and colectoral

Counting The Sheep

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to maintaining a positive outlook throughout your reproductive journey and supporting your body to work its reproductive magic throughout the night.  Check out our 5 top tips for getting some well earned rest!