Pay attention, night owls. There is now evidence that staying up late can affect your fertility. A brand new report, published in Fertility and Sterility suggests that women who are trying to conceive should not be exposed to light during the nighttime hours.
Russel J. Reiter, a professor at the University of Texas Health Center led the study. In addition to reviewing other previous studies done by other groups, the research group looked at the effect of melatonin levels and circadian rhythms on conception rates in females.
Most of us know melatonin as the sleep hormone, but surprisingly, it plays an important role in fertility as well. You see, melatonin protects the eggs from oxidative stress, and shields the eggs from being damaged during ovulation. It turns out, darkness is needed for the brain to produce melatonin, so therefore, it is important for women to have a consistent dark period during the nighttime hours.
The lead researcher, Russel J. Reiter, makes the following suggestions based on the study: “If women are trying to get pregnant, maintain at least eight hours of a dark period at night. The light-dark cycle should be regular from one day to the next; otherwise, a woman’s biological clock is confused.”
He goes on to recommend that women who are trying to conceive keep their bedrooms dark, with no outside light coming in through the window, no cell phone or laptop screens, etc. Women should use blackout curtains and should use nightlights with red or yellow lights as opposed to blue or white so that the circadian rhythms are not interrupted.
This way, melatonin can be produced as it is supposed to be and women have a better chance of protecting their eggs. There have also been similar animal studies done which show that disturbances in the mother’s light and dark environments can actually lead to behavioral problems in newborns.
This has led some researchers to speculate that similar disruptions of the light and dark cycles when a woman is pregnant may be related to the rise in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders in young children.
This study is particularly interesting because it tells us about something that we haven’t thought much about in the past. Of all of the things that women are recommended to do when trying to get pregnant, keeping bedrooms dark has never been a big one on that list.
However, now that we are seeing more information like this, it will be interesting to see how this study plays out in the future, and if we will see doctors suggesting these tips to women who want to get pregnant.