Sleep Deprivation Reduces Male Fertility

The link between sleep deprivation and male fertility - top tips on how to sleep well for fertility.

Sleep Deprivation Reduces Male Fertility photo

Sleep deprivation and male fertility – how a bad night’s sleep can increase the risk of infertility.

With many couples struggling to conceive and 50% of these due to male infertility, it’s essential for a man to look after his health and give his body the nourishment it needs to produce healthy, fertile sperm. Practicing good sleep hygiene is one of the ways to improve male fertility and the chances of a successful pregnancy. There is strong evidence to support a link between sleep deprivation and decreased fertility in men.

What’s the link between sleep deprivation and male fertility?

Age and lifestyle can influence how much a person needs to sleep but on average it seems that adults benefit most from between 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. Regular sleep is essential for everyone, giving the body and mind time to rest and repair.

Sleep deprivation is common in modern society and can lead to many health issues, including problems with male fertility. Studies have shown that sleeping too little, or even too many hours, can affect sperm count, motility and the survival rate, decreasing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. Evidence shows that going to bed late, between the hours of 10.00 pm and midnight, decreases sperm count and motility, even when sleeping the average of 7 to 8 hours.

Circadian rhythm and low fertility in men

Circadian rhythms are the body’s physical, mental and behaviour changes that occur during a 24-hour period. They are natural biological processes which respond to changes in light and dark environments. Directed by the brain which receives information from our optic nerves in the eyes, our body clock is programmed to sleep at night when it’s dark and be awake during daylight hours. We produce a hormone called melatonin when it’s darker to help us feel drowsy and fall asleep.

The body’s circadian rhythm is important primarily for regulating body temperature, hormone release, eating habits and digestion. However, sometimes the circadian rhythm can be disrupted. Sleeping more than 9 hours every night can affect these circadian rhythms, influencing the depth and length of sleep on subsequent nights, which can ultimately lower sperm quality.

Other common factors known to disrupt circadian rhythm include jobs which involve shift work, jet lag, blue light from electronic devices or watching TV before bedtime or even a genetic mutation.

During sleep, men produce testosterone which is the main hormone involved in producing sperm. If the circadian rhythm is disrupted and there is a decrease of testosterone and sperm production, add this to a lower sperm count as a result of too little or too much sleep, and this combines to increase the risk of male infertility.

Tips to combat sleep deprivation and increase male fertility

Practice good sleep hygiene:

  • Keep bedtimes consistent to programme the brain and set the internal body clock. Go to bed at the same time each night by 10.00 pm, sleep for 7-8 hours and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Switch off all electronic devices and screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, caffeine or eat just before you go to bed.
  • Take a warm bath, do some relaxation exercises, read a book, listen to some soothing music or the radio, or write ‘to do’ lists to clear your mind and promote restful sleep.
  • Keep the bedroom relaxed, quiet, dark and at a cool, comfortable temperature.
  • Opt out of night-shift work if possible.

Listening to your body clock, keeping a regular bedtime routine with around 7 to 8 hours sleep and not going to bed too late are all great ways to avoid sleep deprivation and support male fertility.

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Chen, H. G., et al. (2020). Sleep duration and quality in relation to semen quality in healthy men screened as potential sperm donors. Environment international, 135, 105368.

Domínguez-Salazar, et al. (2020). Chronic sleep loss disrupts blood-testis and blood-epididymis barriers, and reduces male fertility. Journal of sleep research, 29(3), e12907.

Liu, M. M., et al. (2017). Sleep Deprivation and Late Bedtime Impair Sperm Health Through Increasing Antisperm Antibody Production: A Prospective Study of 981 Healthy Men. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 23, 1842–1848.

Sciarra, F., et al. (2020). Disruption of Circadian Rhythms: A Crucial Factor in the Etiology of Infertility. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(11), 3943.