Rising use of electronic devices and worse sleep patterns behind increasing male infertility rate


Male infertility — whether it’s because of low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the proper delivery of sperm — is on the rise globally. A study in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research in 2017 indicated that the prevalence of infertility in the general population is 15-20 percent and male infertility factor contributes 20-40 percent to this rate. Moreover, the prevalence of male infertility in India is around 23 percent according to this study, which is a rather high rate.

Understanding the causes behind this high rate of male infertility and then treating those underlying causes has become the need of the hour. As per the research so far, many lifestyle and environmental factors may be the main causes behind male infertility. We’re sure you already understand how habits like smoking and alcohol abuse affect male fertility. But if recent studies are anything to go by, the use of electronic and digital media devices have a huge impact on male fertility too.

Light and male fertility

A recent study published in the journal Sleep shows that exposure to light-emitting screens of digital media devices negatively affects the sperm quality of men. The study obtained semen samples from 116 men, aged 21 to 59 years, undergoing fertility evaluation. Sleep habits and exposure to digital device screens for all participants were obtained through a questionnaire.

The study suggested that smartphone and tablet use in the evening and after bedtime reduced sperm motility, sperm progressive motility and sperm concentration. The greater the exposure to the short-wavelength light (SWL) emitted from these devices, the higher the percentage of immotile sperm. Further, the study indicated that longer sleep duration is positively correlated with total sperm count and progressive motility.

As per the finding of this study, it’s safe to say that evening and nighttime exposure to SWL emitted from digital devices like phones, laptops, tablets and even digital television systems can not only lead to sleep disturbances and delay but also cause male infertility rates to shoot up. With the increasing use of and dependence on digital media devices that emit SWL, it’s likely that male infertility will consequently rise too.

Radiation and male fertility

But it’s not just SWL that all the devices we use in everyday life, including digital devices, emit. A study published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology in 2018 indicates that humans today are surrounded by several types of ionizing and non-ionizing radiations, all of which have a negative effect on spermatogenesis, the process through which sperms are produced in the body.

This study says that ionizing radiations, like those emitted during X-rays, are definitely more harmful and cancer-causing. But sources of non-ionizing radiations, namely mobile phones, laptops, computers, microwave ovens, televisions, WiFi, phone towers and radars, are increasing in numbers and usage across the world. Radiation emissions from these digital and electronic devices affect the testes, which in turn can affect sperm count, morphology, motility, and cause damage to the DNA, hormones and antioxidative enzymes in the body.

Current research is therefore very clear on the facts that both the light emitted from digital devices, as well as the radiations emitted from digital and electronic devices, can affect male fertility negatively. Men who use or depend on these devices should, therefore, aim at limiting their exposure or use other means to counter the effects of these exposures with the consultation of healthcare professionals, in order to prevent infertility in future.

For more information, read our article on Infertility.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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