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Could Working Night Shifts Damage Your Sperm Health?

Night Shifts and Sperm Health

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Could night shifts be taking their toll on your sperm health? Whilst most of us make like Dolly Parton and work 9-5, millions of people worldwide work nights. Many of these people work in sectors that keep our country running – from paramedics to police officers, trainer drivers to delivery people – but this nocturnal way of working can have an impact on your physical and mental health, and even your fertility.

Here we’ll break down the effects of night shifts on the body and the ways you can support your health if your job keeps you up all night.

Sleep and Male Fertility

Sleep is an underestimated cornerstone of our overall health, so it makes sense that a lack of sleep could impact our fertility.

When we sleep, whilst we may be resting, our body is still hard at work. This is the time when cells regenerate and repair, nerve cells communicate and reorganize and hormones are produced – including testosterone.

Because sleep and testosterone production are intrinsically linked, it makes sense that a lack of sleep can have an impact on your fertility. A Danish study found that men who get 8 hours of sleep a night were almost 3 times more likely to have healthy sperm compared to men who got less than 7. Interestingly, another study indicated that having over 9 hours of sleep each evening could also harm sperm health parameters.

It’s clear that for optimum health and fertility, we want to be getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Any sleep expert will tell you that the best way to get a healthy sleep routine is to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – but where does that leave people that work night shifts?


Impact of Night Shifts on the body

To understand the far-reaching effects of working night shifts, we have to talk about our circadian rhythm.

The Circadian Rhythm

Our circadian rhythm is the natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavioral changes that we go through in a 24-hour cycle – and is largely driven by light exposure. Whilst there is a lot more going on behind the scenes (hormonal fluctuations, complex brain activity) the easiest way to think about the circadian rhythm is that when we are exposed to natural light our body and brain are more alert, and when it’s dark outside our body responds to that and wants to rest.

How Night Shifts Affect Your Health

When working night shifts you are battling against your natural circadian rhythm. You’re forcing your body to be awake and alert at the time it wants to rest and restore and this can have a negative impact on your physical and mental well-being.

Many night shift workers struggle to maintain a healthy weight and this might be disturbing your circadian rhythm impedes the production of leptin hormone which is involved in appetite levels and your metabolism. This can lead to an increased risk of diabetes as well as obesity.

A changing sleep routine can also impact blood pressure and blood circulation, which can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular conditions.

Lastly, it’s no surprise that night workers report a poorer quality of life and a negative impact on their mental health. This could be down to a lack of sleep and increased levels of fatigue but there are also other factors at play – including missing out on a social life and time with family as well as a lack of exposure to sunlight.

Night Shifts and Male Fertility

It’s clear that night shifts aren’t great for our health – so it makes sense that they aren’t the biggest ally in a fertility journey either. Research indicates that men who work night shifts are more likely to report issues with erectile function and symptoms of low testosterone. It also uncovered that shift workers were more likely to have lower sperm counts.

The study also found that night shifts had a bigger impact on these issues than smoking or alcohol – although more studies are needed to confirm this claim.


How To Support Your Body If You Work Nights

The fact is that night shifts are not ideal for your health or your fertility, but if your job means they are unavoidable there are a few things you can do to reduce the negative impact.

  • Have a strict night shift sleep routine – Try to go to sleep as soon as possible after your shift finishes and block out 7-8 hours for undisturbed rest. Make sure you eat something before you go to bed so you’re not dealing with hunger pains and make sure your bedroom is as calm and quiet as possible.
    Control your light exposure – If you’re working night shifts you need to trick your body into a synthetic circadian rhythm. Ways you can do this are by exposing yourself to as much light as possible during your shift and decreasing the amount of light you see once work is finished – wearing sunglasses on your journey home is a great tip that researchers found helps night shift workers get off to sleep faster!
  • Follow a healthy diet – If you’re lacking good quality sleep and exposure to natural light, you need to make sure your body is being fuelled with lots of vitamins and nutrients – especially if you are on a fertility journey. Try to avoid sugar and instead snack on fruit and vegetables throughout the time you’re awake.
  • Use caffeine wisely – It might be tempting to drink coffee throughout your shift to keep you awake, but this could make it hard for you to get good quality sleep when you get home. Research has shown that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day has little impact on sperm health, so save them for before you start your shift.
  • Make time for exercise – It might be hard to find time to work out if you are on a run of night shifts, but exercise will have a positive impact on your energy levels as well as your fertility. It will also help to counteract the slowing metabolism you may experience due to a lack of leptin hormone.

If you’re concerned about the impact night shifts could be having on your fertility, testing your sperm could give you peace of mind – or the information you need to make improvements. Learn more about our at-home male fertility test here.

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More to explore

Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.