Lack of sleep may lead to menstrual irregularity—a factor that can delay the time it takes to conceive. When researchers polled women in notoriously sleep-deprived professions—flight attendants and nurses working the late shift—half of the women reported irregular menstrual cycles (compared to about 20 percent of the general population). Some stopped ovulating altogether. This tells us that you should honor your personal sleep needs. The average is about eight hours per night.
Our daily light exposure has an influence on ovulation and reproductive hormones. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, Sleep Lab have successfully been able to alter the length of women's menstrual cycles by exposing them to artificial light around the middle of their cycles, while they slept. It appears that the hormones that trigger ovulation, and even the sperm maturation process, are somehow tied into the body's biological clock. The calibrated release of sleep-wake hormones such as melatonin and cortisol is triggered, in part, by information given to the brain by its "light meter," the pineal gland. Since the same part of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones also stimulates daily pulses of reproductive hormones for men and women, scientists suspect some feedback between these systems. Therefore, it is recommended that you get as much sunlight possible and avoid night shift work when trying to conceive. (Learn more about hormones and light exposure here.)
This is a relatively new infertility treatment that uses pelvic physical therapy to decrease adhesions and increase the function of reproductive organs without surgery or drugs. In one study, 71 percent of women, who had been attempting to conceive for at least a year, became pregnant on their own within one year of receiving therapy. Women who underwent therapy before IVF reported a clinical pregnancy rate of 67 percent compared to the 41 percent in the control group. The treatment is intense: 20 hours of manual therapy during a week at the center.
There is no "one size fits all" approach to patient care. What is beneficial to one person may be the wrong fit for the next. Although evidence-based studies are still emerging for treatments such as acupuncture and relaxation approaches, more infertility programs are opening their doors and their referrals to CAM. Accompanying this concept of treating the whole person is the paradigm of collaborative care in the treatment of the patient. A team approach, with a team comprising a physician, nurse, mental health professional, acupuncturist, yoga instructor, or other professional, represents the new model for providing patient care.