Clients are continually asking what they can do to help themselves through ART. The feeling of dependence on others for timetables, procedures and even acupuncture can lead to a feeling of powerlessness. There are however many things that have been shown to have a positive effect and are firmly under your control. One in particular is sleep.
Getting a good night sleep is not just good for your emotional health it has now been shown to enhance success rates going through IVF.
What does the research say?
A Korean study published in Fertility and Sterility showed that the length of sleep IVF clients had showed improved success rates.
650 women were placed into groups according to the length of sleep they averaged each night.
Short sleepers 4-6 hours
Moderate sleepers 7-8 hours
Long sleepers 9-11
The results show pregnancy rates in the short sleepers group was 45%, in the moderate sleepers 54% and in long sleepers was 43% .
The optimum time for fertility clients to sleep is therefore on average 7-8 hours. Please do not worry if you are not hitting these magic numbers every night. It is just an average amount.
The researchers believe the reason behind the results of this study lie with the circadian rhythm or how the body responds to light and darkness.
Hormone secretions change during the hours of darkness and the time many of us are asleep.
Within each day is a cycle that echoes the ebb and flow of daily life – our attention, alertness, energy and mood. This internal rhythm is produced and regulated by a nerological mechanism we are born with called the circadian clock.
What effect do the brain’s chemicals have on sleep?
The brain mood chemicals serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline have a circadian rhythm to their levels. Melatonin known also as the hormone of darkness and a crucial ingredient in driving the sleep wake cycle helps regulate those levels. This supports the idea that a healthy mind requires a well- functioning circadian rhythm.
I see melatonin supplementation advised on some of the forums and blogs I routinely browse. The problem with taking a supplement advised in only one or two research studies is that they have not been tested in depth. Is a different dose needed dependant on weight? I s there any long term side effects or interaction with medical conditions or medication currently taken?
I would advise against supplementation unless advised otherwise by your fertility clinic.
I really do understand wishing to give each cycle your all but always remember the clinics wish this to work for you too and will advise you in line with current recommendations based on thorough research .
How can we help ourselves
1. Restrict artificial light. Maybe blinds on windows to help block out street lights.
2. No screens in bedroom. Ipads and televisions should not be used at bedtime.
3. Phone on sleep mode or turned screen down.
4. Try a complementary therapy such as acupuncture. Many of my clients comment on their improved sleep after a few sessions.
Is there a simple technique that may help?
The ‘4-7-8’ technique pioneered by Dr Andrew Weil claims to aid sleep by relaxing the muscles and calming the mind. It is based on the Yoga practice of Pranayama or regulated breathing.
Lungs become fully charged with air allowing more oxygen into the body and promoting a state of calm. It can also dampen the production of stress hormones so all the better to use through the roller coaster of fertility treatment.
It has to be practised twice a day every day to be most effective and can take 2-4 weeks to see the best results.
Start practising “4-7-8″method with these simple steps:
1: Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh noise.
2: Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3: Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4: Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight making a whoosh noise.
5: This is one cycle.
6: Repeat the cycle three more times.
This technique is a useful one to practice and become proficient at before an ART cycle begins. It may help with sleep and stress levels and put you firmly back in control.