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  • How To Sleep If You Are Trying To Get Pregnant: Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

    Melatonin is commonly known as the ‘sleep hormone.’
    by Kate Borbon .
How To Sleep If You Are Trying To Get Pregnant: Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Trying to conceive does not just involve having sex, but it is also about paying attention to the processes going on in your body, including your hormones. One type of hormone that has a possible connection to your likelihood of having a baby is melatonin. Below, learn more about it and how it might be associated with fertility.

    What is melatonin?

    Melatonin is commonly known as the “sleep hormone.” Sleep Foundation notes that melatonin is produced by the pineal gland when it is dark and then released into the bloodstream. Once melatonin levels in the blood are high, you begin to feel sleepy. Melatonin levels stay elevated for about 12 hours, then in the morning, they lower so that you wake up and feel alert and energized for the rest of the day.

    However, melatonin has other important functions in the body. Experts say melatonin can also influence cellular processes that affect energy, mood, heart disease, and cancer, as well as fertility and even fetal development.

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    Melatonin and fertility

    Russel J. Reiter, a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and his team did a review of studies about how melatonin levels and circadian rhythms affect successful reproduction in women. They found that melatonin has “strong antioxidant properties” that can help protect egg cells from free radicals.

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    Free radicals are molecules that contain unpaired electrons, which can damage parts of cells, such as proteinsDNA, and cell membranes. Melatonin functions as an antioxidant that gets rid of free radicals during ovulation, which is when egg cells are most vulnerable. As a result, egg cells become healthier and more fertile.

    In a post on her website, Julie Chang, a fertility expert, notes that studies have found that melatonin stimulates the body to create other natural antioxidants, like glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD). These work to protect the cell’s nuclear DNA and other parts from damage.

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    Melatonin may not just be helpful if you want to get pregnantAccording to Cochrane, several studies done on animals have suggested that melatonin may be capable of protecting a developing human baby’s brain from injury. Note that further evidence is still needed to see if this is the case.

    Other possible benefits of melatonin for fetuses include healthy brain development, a decreased risk of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), and protection against neurobehavioral disorders.

    The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health notes there is research pointing to the possible benefits of melatonin for pregnant women. It has been determined that the placenta produces melatonin, which is thought to be essential for a healthy pregnancy. Animal studies have also determined that supplementation with melatonin may decrease the risk of preeclampsia, IUGR, and preterm birth.

    It’s important to note, however, there is no long-term data yet establishing whether or not melatonin is truly safe for pregnancyaccording to Insider. The few studies on this subject are either small or have only been done on animals.

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    How to keep your melatonin levels in balance

    One natural way to maintain balance in your melatonin levels is by making sure it is as dark as possible whenever you go to sleep. Melanie McGrice, an advanced accredited practicing dietitian from Australia, says the more you are exposed to light at night during sleep, the more your melatonin production is impaired — and this could negatively impact your fertility.

    “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,” Reiter tells LiveScience. He adds that eight hours of darkness is also optimal during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester.

    To ensure your room is as dark as possible at night, Reiter advises seeing to it that no outside light comes in through your windows. You may want to avoid watching television or using gadgets in bed. If you do need to use your gadget before going to sleep, make use of its automatic night-time light dimming function.

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    If you need a nightlight in your bedroom, Reiter says it’s better to choose a red or yellow light instead of a white or blue one, since the latter can disrupt circadian rhythms and interfere with your body's melatonin production. Finally, if you can’t sleep, try to avoid turning the lights back on.

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