Sleep and Fertility

April 7th, 2006

Did you know that something as small as a nightlight can have a direct effect on your fertility? When I was having a bunch of miscarriages, a friend told me to make sure my bedroom was totally dark–now I know why: melatonin. This hormone is primarily secreted at night, and it requires darkness to be produced. Bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Less bright light can screw it up.

Exposure to light at night can inhibit the pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Something as small as a nightlight can actually throw your fertility off, and why? The hypothalamus gland, also located in the brain, is richly supplied with melatonin receptors. This gland regulates your body’s overall homeostasis, including things like blood pressure, emotions, temperature, and the endocrine (hormonal) system. Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus stimulate the anterior pituitary gland to secrete its hormones; and these, in turn, stimulate the thyroid gland, the adrenals and the ovaries to secrete yet other hormones. The ovaries (and the testicles) are also thought to contain melatonin receptors.

We all know about circadian rhythm, and you can see how melatonin production—and thereby sleeping in darkness or with light—can affect the whole body’s functioning, including the menstrual cycle: if the hypothalamus doesn’t receive sufficient melatonin, its ability to regulate the hormonal system will be impaired. Some women with irregular or anovulatory cycles find that all it takes is cleaning up the light pollution in your room.

We live in the middle of the city, next to a streetlight, unfortunately. No matter what we did, light would still sneak in. We ended up getting a second set of shades and even taping them shut at night with masking tape. A little weird, yes, but at the very least, we are sleeping better!

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One Response to “Sleep and Fertility”

  1. Rose Says:

    I’m confused. Melatonin takes effect while you are conceiving? Or does affect even those who are already pregnant? If it does, then must you stay away from nightlight during the whole process of pregnancy?

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