When couples are trying to start a family, they may be thinking about just one type of activity in the bedroom. But sleep could be as important as sex when you’re trying to conceive, according to the latest research.
Researchers studied the habits of almost 700 couples and found that getting adequate shut-eye can indeed affect a man’s ability to get his partner pregnant. The results of the study, which were published in the journal Fertility & Sterility last year, found that men who got by on less than six hours a night were nearly a third less likely to conceive than those who hit the sack for the recommended seven to eight hours. Surprisingly, there isn’t just a connection between sleep deprivation and fertility, but oversleeping and fertility as well: Slumbering for more than nine hours a night cut the odds of conceiving nearly in half.
The connection between sleep and male fertility
Although there’s no conclusive explanation of the relationship between sleep and male fertility, experts think it may have something to do with the production of hormones such as testosterone, which plays a role in sperm production and sex drive. Testosterone levels are often highest in the morning, immediately after a long snooze, and fall throughout the day. Extra-long slumber, on the other hand, may be associated with poorer quality sleep or other ingrained health problems (depression, obesity, etc.) that impact fertility.
Regardless of the exact reasons, the study is significant for couples trying to conceive, says Peter N. Schlegel, MD, president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and chairman of urology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “Up until now, there has been very little data on sleep and fertility, even though men can account for almost half of all fertility problems in one way or another.”
While doctors have known for some time how diet and exercise can affect fertility, the recent study is one of the first to look at what role your nighttime routine might play. “In terms of lifestyle factors,” Schlegel says, “we can now tell patients that sleep is one.”
Another reason for men to get better-quality rest
Men hoping to achieve dad-to-be status would be wise to start improving their sleep regimens. But don’t expect success overnight: Sperm production can take between two and three months, so it may take about that long to see any kind of improvement in fertility.
Another reason to focus on getting more shut-eye? Research has found a link between poor sleep quality and erectile disfunction (ED). In one study of men diagnosed with sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that affects 22 million Americans, an incredible 70 percent also suffered from ED. Researchers found that treating the sleep apnea ultimately improved the ED and the patient’s sex life overall. “Obstructive sleep apnea is certainly associated with obesity and other conditions related to low sperm production,” says Schlegel. “And that disrupts your sleep as well.”
Plus, if you’re tossing and turning, odds are your partner is, too. One in three Americans reported that a partner’s sleep problems ruined their own peaceful slumber, according to The Better Sleep Council (BSC), and female fertility is equally impacted by lack of sleep. But there is hope: A BSC survey found that 40 percent of couples said that a new mattress cut down on nighttime disturbances, and more than a quarter said it improved their sex lives. (Looking for a new mattress that will help in that department? Check out our best mattresses for romance.)
So rest up now—because once baby makes three, there will be a lot less shut-eye to go around. (Here’s how to find a great mattress for pregnancy.)