Can Too Little Sleep Cause Osteoporosis?

Two recent studies suggest that lack of sleep can affect bone mass over time.

With Andrea Singer MD, Chief Medical Officer of the National Osteoporosis Foundation

Low bone mass

Over 53 million Americans have low bone mass, while nearly half of women and 25% men will break a bone because of osteoporosis as some point in their lives. As a result, osteoporosis is currently responsible for over 2 million broken bones and 19 billion in related costs each year, and those numbers continue to rise due to population aging.

Thankfully, there is plenty patients can do on their own to lower their risk. A diet abundant in calcium and vitamin D can help prevent bone loss.  As can regular exercise, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption. Now, a new study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research suggests that a lifetime of adaquate sleep can prevent osteoporosis as well.

Osteoporosis and Sleep Deprivation

The Women’s Health Initiative conducted a study of over 11,000 post-menopausal women, assessing associations with self-reported hours of sleep and sleep quality against bone mineral density. The researchers adjusted for age, race, symptoms, alcohol use, smoking, BMI, physical activity and sleeping medication. The pattern they found was clear; women who reported sleeping only five hours or less per night had significantly lower bone density than women who slept seven or more hours a night.

Andrea Singer MD, Chief Medical Officer of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, spoke to Endocrine Web about the new study. She said: 

“Adequate sleep and good sleep habits are important for our overall health. This suggests that the same may be important for bone health. More data would be needed to determine if positive changes in sleep patterns (i.e., increased sleep time, improved quality of sleep) can improve bone density. In the meantime, for overall health and wellbeing, good sleep habits and adequate sleep are important and should be encouraged at every age.”

This is not the first time research has suggested that sleeping habits may affect bone health. In 2016, the Hiroshima Sleep and Healthcare Study was conducted on 1,000 participants between the ages of 25-85 years of age. Adjusting for sex, age, race, BMI, smoking and alcohol use, there was still a strong association between poor sleep patterns and lower bone density. 

Other benefits of a full night’s sleep are already well-documented. They range from a feeling of well-being and increased concentration and cognitive skills to reduced risks for obesity, heart disease, infections and depression.

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