Short sleep may harm bone health in older women, finds study

Getting five or fewer hours of sleep a night is associated with low bone mineral density and higher odds of osteoporosis, researchers report


New research in postmenopausal women has found that those who slept for no longer than 5 hours per night were most likely to have a lower bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis.

A team from the University at Buffalo, New York, led the study of 11,084 postmenopausal women, all of whom were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative.

A recent paper in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research gives a full account of the findings.

The investigation follows an earlier one in which the team had linked short sleep to a higher likelihood of bone fracture in women.

“Our study suggests that sleep may negatively impact bone health, adding to the list of the negative health impacts of poor sleep,” says lead study author Heather M. Ochs-Balcom, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“I hope,” she adds, “that it can also serve as a reminder to strive for the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep per night for our physical and mental health.”

Bone remodelling and osteoporosis

Bone is living tissue that undergoes continuous formation and resorption. The process, known as bone remodelling, removes old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone tissue.

“If you are sleeping less, one possible explanation is that bone remodelling isn’t happening properly,” Ochs-Balcom explains.

Lower BMD measures tied to short sleep

In the new study, the team found that compared with women who slept more, those who reported getting only up to 5 hours of sleep per night had significantly lower values in four measures of BMD.

The four BMD measures were of the whole body, the hip, the neck, and the spine.

The researchers note that the lower BMD measures among the short sleep group were equivalent to being 1 year older.

The results were independent of other factors that could potentially influence them, such as age, race, the effects of menopause, smoking status, alcohol use, body mass index (BMI), use of sleeping pills, exercise, and type of bone density scanner.

The researchers emphasise that there is a positive message in these findings: Sleep, as with diet and exercise, is often something that people can work to change.

“It’s really important to eat healthfully, and physical activity is important for bone health. That’s the exciting part of this story – most of us have control over when we turn off the lights, when we put the phone down,” said Heather M. Ochs-Balcom, Ph.D.

Source: Medical News Today