Human fertility and sleep disturbances: A narrative review

Sleep Med. 2022 Oct:98:13-25. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2022.06.009. Epub 2022 Jun 19.


Introduction: Many factors may be hidden behind the global fertility decline observed in Western countries. Alongside the progressively increased age of infertile couples, environmental and behavioural factors, including non-optimal lifestyle habits, should be considered. Among these, sleep disorders have been suggested to be linked to human fertility.

Methods: This is a narrative review, describing first sleep physiology, its disturbances, and the tools able to quantify sleep dysfunction. Then, we consider all available studies aimed at investigating the connection between sleep disorders and human fertility, providing a comprehensive view on this topic.

Results: Forty-two studies investigating the relationship between sleep habits and human reproduction were included. All the published evidence was grouped according to the aspect of human fertility considered, i.e. i) female reproductive functions, ii) male reproductive functions, iii) natural conception and iv) assisted reproduction. For each of the sub-groups considered, the connection between sleep dysregulation and human fertility was classified according to specific sleep characteristics, such as sleep duration, quality, and habits. In addition, possible physio-pathological mechanisms proposed to support the link between sleep and fertility were summarized.

Conclusion: This review summarizes the most relevant findings about the intricate and still largely unknown network of molecular pathways involved in the regulation of circadian homeostasis, to which sleep contributes, essential for reproductive physiology. Thus, many mechanisms seem correlate sleep disorders to reproductive health, such as adrenal activation, circadian dysregulation, and genetic influences. This review highlights the need to properly designed trials on the topic.

Keywords: Female fertility; Human reproduction; Infertility; Male fertility; Sleep dysregulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infertility* / etiology
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / complications