Can darkness protect female fertility? New research says yes! Women who wish to achieve pregnancy are now advised to avoid late nights and artificial light as it can harm their fertility and, as a consequence, decrease chances of conception.
Every time we turn on the light at night, the production of melatonin is reduced. Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the brain, in response to darkness, that helps regulate other hormones in the body and is commonly known for its sleep effects. However, fertility experts from the University of Texas report another quite important role of the hormone in female fertility.
A review of studies, published in ‘’Fertility and Sterility’’, that summarized previous research results on the role of melatonin and circadian cycle on achieving pregnancy in women, provided evidence that melatonin protects the ovary, eggs and placenta from the disastrous effects of free radicals as it exhibits unique oxygen scavenging abilities. That means that melatonin prevents the production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) saving the reproductive system from oxidative damage.
Russel J. Reiter, professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and lead researcher of the study, reported that ‘’darkness is important for female fertility as well as for protecting the developing embryo’’.
He also recommended women trying to get pregnant to spend at least 8 hours in the darkness during the night. Ideally, all lights should be off, however if there must be a light on, red or yellow are preferable. White and blue light should be avoided as these colours could disturb the biological clock.
So, can darkness protect female fertility? The main conclusion of the study review was that the circadian cycle and melatonin, both linked to darkness, are crucial for optimal function of the reproductive system. Additionally, the circadian cycle should remain stable smooth and undisturbed from one day to the other otherwise it is more likely for a women’s biological clock to go out of tune. Professor Reiter would advise the same for pregnant women in order to support fetus development.