How Poor Sleep Affects Your Period, Fertility and Causes Weight Gain
On average, women sleep only 6 hours and 41 minutes a night during the workweek. This is according to the results of a 1998 Women and Sleep Poll from the National Sleep Foundation. Studies show that this length is considered chronic sleep deprivation.
In the last 16 years, that number has probably dropped even lower.
Are YOU getting enough sleep?
If not, what does chronic sleep deprivation mean for your cycle, your fertility and your body weight?
From a western medical standpoint, it means:
- A higher chance of endocrine and metabolic disorders like diabetes
- Gaining weight more easily
- Disrupted hormonal activity as regulated by the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (AKA the H-P-O Axis, the communications board between your ovaries, your brain and your hormones)
- A higher chance of developing hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Disrupted TSH levels
- Exhausted adrenals
- Increased inflammatory markers with gender specific chronic inflammatory disease (as in women-specific)
All of the above are disastrous for your reproductive health and fertility!
And go figure, it’s not just women who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation.
A lack of sleep can reduce your man’s sperm count by one third!
In fact, tests even showed that their testicles shrink when he’s chronically sleep deprived!
If that doesn’t get your man motivated to get to bed earlier, I don’t know what will!
(If he doesn’t believe you, he can read the study for himself here.)
What does this mean from an Eastern medical perspective?
Yin energy consists of your body’s fluids and cooling system. Your body rebuilds your Yin substances (like blood, hormones and lubricating fluids) and repairs the body during sleep.
A lack of Yin can result in overheating symptoms (like night sweats), hormone imbalances and a lack of material to mature healthy eggs and build a healthy uterine lining.
Liver blood deficiency
In Chinese medicine, it’s said that the “Liver stores blood during sleep.” This is crucial because the Liver is the primary organ systems that regulates your menstrual cycle.
If the liver lacks nourishment of blood during sleep, it can’t properly regulate your cycle and nourish your uterus and ovaries. This means more PMS, irregular cycles, painful periods and fertility issues.
The Liver also makes sex hormones. If it’s depleted, guess what? Not enough reproductive hormones.
Qi is life force energy infused with intelligence. Quite simply, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you become qi deficient. All of your bodily functions depend on your qi reserve.
When you’re qi deficient, you can develop a whole slew of problems. Most commonly you’ll have digestive issues. Your body simply can’t break down, absorb and distribute nutrients efficiently without enough qi.
This can lead to a variety of cycle problems and fertility issues. Your reproductive health directly depends on the health of your digestive system.
Heart blood deficiency
Sleep is a crucial resting period for the Heart. This is true from both medicines’ perspectives. But in Chinese medicine we say your spirit, or Shen, is housed in the heart and expressed in the face.
During sleep, the heart is also nourished by blood. If the heart is lacking in blood and energy, then your spirit doesn’t feel at home and can’t rest in your heart. This can lead to either a “dull” or “disturbed” shen.
A dull shen may manifest as depression, apathy. It’s like when that sparkle’s missing from your eyes. You may feel down and fatigued.
A disturbed shen looks more like agitation and/or anxiety. It’s like when you have a false sense of energy with an underlying nervousness or restlessness. You might get a racing heart, heart palpitations, depression, fatigue, anxiety or a feeling of overwhelm.
If your spirit doesn’t feel at home in your heart, you may also experience restless sleep or nightmares.
In Chinese medicine, there’s an energetic pathway that connects the heart to the uterus. If you’re spirit doesn’t feel at home in your heart, it’s likely that the energy of your womb is unsettled as well, making it a less hospitable place for a little embryo.
Chicken or the Egg? Stress or Insomnia?
Sleep is the best medicine. Hands down.
But if you can’t sleep well, frankly you’re screwed.
If you have fertility issues and sleep problems, my very first goal is to get you sleeping better. (And get you off sleep meds if needed! Sleep meds just make matters worse.)
Getting enough quality sleep instantly and exponentially improves your chances of getting pregnant.
Overwork, stress and anxiety lead to sleep problems. Then sleep problems lead to more stress and anxiety.
It’s a vicious cycle that MUST be stopped!
So how can you stop it?
Acupressure, of course!
P.S. In your quest for a healthy pregnancy, you need all the help you can get. And I’ve got plenty of help for you and it won’t cost you a dime. The Fertile Living Library is an online vault of resources to help you on your baby-making journey. You can sign up here.
Heidi Brockmyre is an acupuncturist, herbalist and fertility and pregnancy specialist with a background in Chinese medicine.
She has over 10 years of experience helping women grow their families. She's supported hundreds of women in her clinic in San Diego, and thousands of women around the world in her online community.
Heidi focuses on helping women create total fertility wellness by preparing the mind, body, and spirit for fertility and pregnancy through her virtual fertility self-acupressure programs.