Dr Sangarika Aggarwal
It has been widely known that sleeping at right time and for right duration has numerous benefits. Alongside the big difference that it makes to one’s physical health, the growing evidence shows that it affects sexual health too.
Sleeping too little or too much has a drastic impact on a man’s ability to impregnate their partner. The adequate duration of rest is 7-8 hours and if the duration is less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours per night, the probability of making the partner conceive reduces.
In any given month, probability of conception has a 42% reduction if men slept less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours per night.
Why does less sleep cause infertility?
Sleep seems to have an impact on male fertility and snoring may be the first sign. If a person has a disturbed sleep, he is twice likely to get his sperm count reduced by upto 30% in comparison to those who have a sound sleep. Testosterone is a male hormone that is crucial for reproduction and the majority of daily testosterone release in men occurs during sleep. Total time of sleep has thus been certainly linked with levels of testosterone in the body. Those who suffer disturbed sleep with less than six hours a night also had lower sperm quality. Poor sleep interferes with the body’s ability to produce sperm.
What are the early symptoms?
Infertility among men is becoming a widespread problem. Snoring most nights and feeling excessively sleepy during the day are classic signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Snoring affects men more than women and occurrence is almost twice that for women. It occurs when the soft tissue in your nose and throat vibrates when you sleep. Being overweight, drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking and allergies can trigger it further. Apnea means that the person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time, several times a night. Over a period of time, this can lead to heart problems and even stroke.
What are the consequences?
A man’s fertility generally relies on the quantity and quality of his sperms. If the number of sperm a man ejaculates is low or if the sperm are of a poor quality, it will be difficult, and sometimes impossible, for him to cause a pregnancy.
Out of all the infertile couples, the problem lies solely in the male partner in 20% cases and 5% of them have some kind of fertility problem with low numbers of sperm in his ejaculate. However, only 1% suffer from azoospermia – no sperm in his ejaculate.
Male infertility is usually caused by problems that affect either sperm production or sperm transport. Poor sleep for more than 3 weeks may cause lower sperm count, deformity in shape and decreased ability to move ahead. Either low numbers of sperm are made or the sperm that are made do not work properly.
Sperm transport problems are found in 30% of them. Blockages (often referred to as obstructions) in the tubes that take sperms away from the testes to the penis can cause a complete lack of sperm in the ejaculated semen.
Can it be prevented?
When you have a disturbed sleep and lower sleep time it is quite feasible for the person to have unhealthy lifestyle, decreased libido – loss in sexual interest. Appropriate sleep hours (between 7 to 9 hours) helps to optimize men’s fertility and their chances of contributing to a pregnancy. Eating fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables yields better production of sperm instead of high cholesterol diet like meat and junk foods. Men who are at a healthy weight generally have better fertility too.
Is it diagnosable?
It is difficult to diagnose male infertility without medical tests as there may be no obvious signs. There may be no difficulty in intercourse, erection and ejaculations and even the quantity and appearance of the semen may look normal. Medical tests are usually required, to find the cause of the problem. These tests can then guide us towards the concerned problems with sperms and thus help us in managing male infertility.
(The author is Gynaecologist and IVF Specialist)
Dr Sangarika Aggarwal