The reproductive function of humans is regulated by several sex hormones which are secreted in synergy with the circadian timing of the body. Sleep patterns produce generic signatures that physiologically drive the synthesis, secretion, and metabolism of hormones necessary for reproduction. Sleep deprivation among men and women is increasingly reported as one of the causes of infertility. In animal models, sleep disturbances impair the secretion of sexual hormones thereby leading to a decrease in testosterone level, reduced sperm motility and apoptosis of the Leydig cells in male rats. Sleep deprivation generates stressful stimuli intrinsically, due to circadian desynchrony and thereby increases the activation of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis, which, consequently, increases the production of corticosterone. The elevated level of corticosteroids results in a reduction in testosterone production. Sleep deprivation produces a commensurate effect on women by reducing the chances of fertility. Sleeplessness among female shift workers suppresses melatonin production as well as excessive HPA activation which results in early pregnancy loss, failed embryo implantation, anovulation and amenorrhea. Sleep deprivation in women has also be found to be associated with altered gonadotropin and sex steroid secretion which all together lead to female infertility. Poor quality of sleep is observed in middle-aged and older men and this also contributes to reduced testosterone concentrations. The influence of sleep disturbances post-menopausal is associated with irregular synthesis and secretion of female sex steroid hormones.
Keywords: Circadian rhythm; Fertility; Reproductive health; Sex hormones; Sleep deprivation.
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