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A Good Night’s Sleep may Help Prevent Osteoporosis.

By: Kathy Hubbard

Roughly 10 million people have osteoporosis in the U.S. Another 44 million have low bone density, putting them at risk for fractures, says the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation.

“One in two women and up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, BHOF says. “People with osteoporosis can break a bone from a minor fall, or in serious cases, even from simple actions like sneezing or bumping into furniture.”

I have osteoporosis, so I’m always eager to read reports on what I can do to prevent further loss of bone mass. So, when an article titled “Understanding the Sleep-Bone Link” popped up on my internet search, of course, I read it.

The article was written by Joan Pagano, whose bio says she’s an author, speaker, and recognized expert in women’s fitness and healthy aging. It was published on a site called The Three Tomatoes.

“The link between osteoporosis and sleep is fundamental to bone health, although it’s not the first that comes to mind. We often hear about the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise when it comes to maintaining healthy bones. However, sleep is another crucial element that is often overlooked,” she said.

However, she points out that there is a “Goldilocks Effect,” which essentially means getting less than five hours of sleep each night is detrimental to bone health, but sleeping more than eight hours leads to a 22 percent higher risk of osteoporosis.

When it comes to the biological process, she points out four metabolic, endocrine, and physical functions that are affected by sleep.

“1. Bone regeneration. During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormones, which are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of bones. These hormones stimulate the bone-forming cells known as osteoblasts, facilitating the development of healthy bones. Chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt this process and inhibit bone regeneration, potentially leading to weaker bones over time,” she wrote.

 “2. Inflammatory response. Inflammation is closely linked to bone health, as chronic inflammation can lead to increased bone resorption (the breakdown of bone tissue) and decreased bone formation. A lack of sleep can disrupt the body’s immune system, leading to increased inflammation and, consequently, accelerating bone loss, making individuals more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis.

“3. Calcium metabolism. Calcium is a critical mineral for bone health, and sleep can influence its metabolism. The parathyroid hormone (PTH) regulates calcium levels in the blood during sleep, allowing it to be sorted in the bones. Inadequate sleep can disrupt this process, leading to poor calcium balance and increased calcium excretion, ultimately weakening bone density. In the bones, PTH stimulates the release of calcium in an indirect process through osteoclasts, which ultimately leads to the resorption of the bones.”

And the fourth function I found very interesting. She said that physical activity is critical to maintaining strong bones, something we all know, of course. But she added, “Sleep can significantly affect our motivation and ability to exercise. Sleep deprivation often leads to fatigue, making it difficult to engage in regular physical activity. This can result in a reduction in bone density and muscle mass, increasing the risk of fractures and bone-related injuries.”

I found several other articles that related sleep to osteoporosis. One was published in MedCentral that reported The Women’s Health Initiative had “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.”

If you want to learn more, just Google “Osteoporosis and Sleep.”  But perhaps a much better idea is to contact your primary care provider and talk about how often you should have a bone density scan, and if you have bone loss, whether you’re a candidate for one of the several medications on the market today. If you’re looking for a PCP call Bonner General Family Practice at 208-265-2221.

Meanwhile, eat a healthy diet high in calcium, limit alcohol, and exercise regularly.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com. This article was written for publication in the Bonner County Daily Bee on May 22, 2024.

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