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by Stacy Dunn, ND, LAc, FABNO

My patients are well accustomed to inquiries about their sleep – What time are you going to bed? Do you fall asleep easily? Do you wake frequently? What time do you wake in the morning? Do you feel rested? I ask about sleep at every appointment because good quality sleep has a profound impact on their overall health, helping to reduce their risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. But I am also asking about sleep because of its impact on fertility.

A variety of hormones are regulated by our circadian and sleep-wake cycles, and poor quality sleep, keeping late hours, and irregular bedtimes can interfere with their production. These hormones include melatonin, leptin, cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone, and prolactin, and changes in these hormone impact ovulation, menstrual regularity, and even egg quality. Lack of sleep also increases inflammatory processes which may further compromise fertility.

It can be challenging in our fast-paced world to unwind and sleep. Added stress and exogenous hormones from fertility treatments don’t exactly help. But there are many ways to support healthy sleep; these are my favorite tips:

• Get outside! Natural sunlight helps to regulate our internal clock, while artificial light may disrupt it.

• Keep bedtime consistent – go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time, ideally every night of the week.

• Nutritional supplements such as Magnesium and Melatonin, herbs such as Chamomile and Passion Flower, and essential oils such as Lavender can be very supportive. Discuss with your health care provider which recommendations and dosages that would be most supportive for you.

• Acupuncture is well known for supporting restful sleep – it is a side-benefit many realize after trying acupuncture for pain or fertility.

• Yoga – research studies have shown yoga to markedly reduces stress and reduce insomnia. Our yoga students can attest to its benefits!

• Sleep in a cool and dark environment. The National Sleep Foundation recommends bedroom temperatures around 65 degrees – and research backs this up. Lamps, televisions, and cell phones should all be turned off, and if you live in the city, blackout curtains can be a great investment. Electronics and digital devices should also be avoided before sleep.