Melatonin And Fertility
Optimise your levels of melatonin and fertility
Chinese medicine practitioners have known for hundreds of years that the body has a natural daily rhythm. They have long understood that living out of kilter with this rhythm can affect our health and fertility. Likewise, modern researchers have also found a link between fertility issues and disruption in this daily physiological cycle called the circadian rhythm. Medical research is now exploring supplementation of one of our natural hormones called melatonin during IVF cycles. The melatonin and fertility link is primarily being researched for its antioxidant affects on the body. However melatonin is is a hormone well known for its role in setting our natural daily body rhythms. This article introduces you to ways you can help support these rhythms to optimise your health, melatonin and fertility according to traditional Chinese medicine.
Melatonin levels are meant to increase sharply in the evening to help with sleep onset and decrease as we get closer to waking. This production cycle is largely influenced by our exposure to light. However in modern life, artificial lighting and elevated cortisol levels can be disruptive factors in melatonin cycles. Cortisol levels can become unhealthily elevated in people who have been experiencing prolonged stress. When these levels stay higher than they should in the evening, this can prevent melatonin levels rising enough to help with sleep onset. Overtime this can affect many of the natural rhythms of your body. A search through research databases reveals a large body of evidence suggesting insufficient sleep is a contributor to the onset of numerous health issues.
Stress reduction or management techniques may be really important for some of you to use in order to establish healthy cortisol cycles so you can sleep well. Unwittingly when we are stressed, we often exacerbate the problem by developing unhealthy lifestyle habits and routines which then affect sleep. For example:
- staying up too late working or searching for information online
- reducing exercise
- or eating poorly
According to Chinese medicine, we should actually be sound asleep by 11pm. This fits well with what we now know about the evening melatonin surge. In order to get to sleep many people find it helpful to establish an end of day wind down routine that trains the body into new sleep patterns. But what you do through the day can also help reset your body clock. Eating correctly and at the right times is important for this. If you are having trouble with sleep routines, you definitely don’t want to be having coffee after lunchtime. Coffee is hot, drying and stimulating – which is contradictory to the still and quiet yin nature of sleep – and melatonin. All types of caffeine can take a long time to be metabolised by some people. I suggest that anyone who has difficulty sleeping would do well to try to avoid caffeine after lunch to see if it helps. Yin is building in the body from midday, so introducing the yang nature of caffeine can be quite disruptive if your yin is vulnerable. Try going without it for a week and see how you go. Better still, while you are trying to conceive and once you are pregnant and while breast feeding, just avoid it.
Studies show acupuncture improves melatonin levels. Furthermore, many patients can attest to the stress reducing effects of acupuncture. What acupuncture can’t do though, is change your behavioural choices. If the fertility journey has been a struggle, you may need to make some new conscious choices to live in a way that supports your body and mind better. Stress reduction and good sleep routines help optimise your melatonin and fertility levels. From a Chinese medicine point of view, if you also add healthy eating routines to this formula, you will be well on your way to improving your fertility by getting your body more in sync with its natural rhythms.
Fernando, S. and L. Rombauts (2014). “Melatonin: shedding light on infertility? – a review of the recent literature.” Journal of Ovarian Research 7(1): 1-14.
Hullender Rubin, L. E., M. S. Opsahl, K. Wiemer, S. D. Mist and A. B. Caughey (2015). “Impact of Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine on In Vitro Fertilization Outcomes.” Reproductive biomedicine online 30(6): 602-612.
James, F. O., N. Cermakian and D. B. Boivin (2007). “Circadian Rhythms of Melatonin, Cortisol, and Clock Gene Expression During Simulated Night Shift Work.” Sleep 30(11): 1427-1436.
Spence, D. W., L. Kayumov, A. Chen, A. Lowe, U. Jain, M. A. Katzman, J. Shen, B. Perelman and C. M. Shapiro (2004). “Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report.” The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 16(1): 19-28.