Why You, Your Health, and Your Sperm Need Good Sleep

Maximizing your fertility is all about keeping your body in tip-top shape. There’s no better way to keep yourself refreshed and replenished than with sleep. It may seem obvious that not getting enough can be damaging to your overall health – and therefore, your reproductive health. But what you might not know is that getting too much can actually have the same effect.

How does sleep affect my body?

Sleep problems have been associated with lower fertility for a long time. Studies have shown that men who sleep for less than six hours a night are 31% less likely to get pregnant than those who get between seven and eight hours. Men produce testosterone (the prominent hormone in sperm production) while they sleep, so sleeping too little reduces the release of testosterone.

Another problem comes with disturbances: disturbances are associated with lower overall sperm counts as well as decreased testosterone levels. It’s possible that a lot of these sleep problems come from other sources. Men who don’t sleep well often may have other bad habits such as smoking, drinking too much, or not exercising enough. These habits have major negative impacts on sperm counts.

How does sleep affect my fertility?

However, a new study in the journal Fertility & Sterility suggests that sleep’s connection to fertility is like a U-curve, centered around 8 hours per night: both short and long durations have been associated with reduced male fertility. The data revealed that the number of sperm cells in the semen were much lower in all short sleepers (less than six hours per night) and most of the long sleepers (nine hours or more per night). This finding indicates that sperm count may partly depend on length of sleep time. Both short and long time has also been associated with other, more serious conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

Finding an optimal rest time is important for maintaining sperm health: snoozing for seven to eight hours a night seems to be the best range for your sperm, the study suggests. It’s also a good idea to try and go to bed at the same time every night: frequent shifts in timing can throw off your circadian rhythms and cause metabolic problems.

What can I do to sleep better?

“Sleep hygiene” is the term used to describe bedtime habits and rituals. A lot of research by the CDC proves that good hygiene is good for your memory, your energy levels, your hormone production, your circadian rhythms, your cell growth, and yes, your fertility. Over a third of Americans fall short of the “optimal” snooze time of seven hours a night. Here are some ways to maximize your hygiene:

  • Go to bed between 10 p.m. and midnight every night.
  • Increase your aerobic and weight training (but don’t do any exercise 5-6 hours before going to sleep).
  • Avoid blue light emitted by electronic screens up to an hour before bedtime.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex. If you have a television near your bed, consider moving it elsewhere. Watching TV in bed associates the bedroom with wakefulness.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Try blackout curtains or a white-noise app to see if they help you.

While these strategies are most likely going to put you into a deep sleep faster, don’t worry if you don’t see any immediate changes in your sperm. The body creates new sperm cells every 72 days, so it might take just over two months to experience a fertility boost. If you’re trying to conceive, start working on your habits about three months before, just to make sure.

References

“Can How Much You Sleep Affect Your Fertility?” Tuck Sleep, 4 Apr. 2019.

Mei-Mei, Liu, et al. “Sleep Deprivation and Late Bedtime Impair Sperm Health Through Increasing Antisperm Antibody Production: A Prospective Study of 981 Healthy Men.” Medical Science Monitor, vol. 23, 16 Apr. 2017, pp. 1842–1848.

Millard, Elizabeth. “Here Is the Exact Amount Of Sleep You Need For Successful Sperm.” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 25 Feb. 2019.

Palnitkar, G, et al. “Linking Sleep Disturbance to Idiopathic Male Infertility.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 42, Dec. 2018, pp. 149–159.

Wise, Lauren Anne, et al. “Male Sleep Duration and Fecundability in a North American Preconception Cohort Study.” Fertility and Sterility, vol. 109, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 453–459.