A new study has shown that use of smartphones, tablets and other digital devices late at night could be having a detrimental effect on male fertility.
The study, conducted by the Sleep and Fatigue Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel, examined semen samples from 116 men, aged between 21 and 59, who were undergoing fertility evaluation. Participants were also asked to answer questions about their socio-economic status, health, lifestyle and sleep variables, including their daily exposure to digital media.
The results seemed to show that consistent late-night use of digital devices was linked to reduced sperm motility (that’s their ability to swim strongly) and concentration. Yet another reason to tell your partner to put his phone down at bedtime!
Are the fertility check results all they seem?
While it’s not unlikely that screen time has an effect on fertility, it might not be as direct a link as it first appears.
Male fertility does seem to be on a downturn – a 2018 study by Hebrew University and Mount Sinai Medical School showed that sperm counts in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have fallen by fifty percent in the past forty years.
One thing that experts think could be a major factor in this sperm count reduction is a lack of melatonin, or the the sleep hormone.
Sleep and sperm count
In the animal world, the link between melatonin and reproduction is well established, and some experts believe that the same could be the case for humans.
After assessing the results of the sperm count and correlating them with the questionnaires, the researchers also assessed participants’ sleepiness, using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS). Dr Amit Green, who led the study, commented:
“We demonstrated a positive correlation between sleep duration and sperm total and progressive motility. A significant negative correlation was observed between subjective sleepiness and total and progressive motility, as well as total motile sperm number. Thus, people should sleep 6-8 hours in order to keep healthy way of life.”
Device use and sleep
It comes as no news to most of us that the use of digital devices late at night has a negative impact on our sleep.
Previous studies have shown that evening exposure to the short wavelength light emitted by smartphones and their ilk reduces our melatonin levels, making it harder for us to switch off and go to sleep.
So, if sleep is necessary for male fertility, it stands to reason that using your smartphone or tablet late at night could also make you less likely to conceive.
Fertility, for both men and women, is affected by many things, however. So, if you have been trying for a baby without success, whilst reducing your device use can’t do any harm, it might be advisable to see a fertility expert and find out whether there is something else preventing you from conceiving.