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New research on sleep and bones

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

Bet you feel healthier after a good night’s sleep — well, so do your bones. Here’s what the scientists have found in their latest research about the connection between sleep and your bones:

• Reduced sleep duration was associated with lower bone density in middle aged and older women in one Chinese study.

• Obstructive sleep apnea, with its loss of sleep and oxygen deprivation, weakens bone.  A recent Taiwanese study found the incidence of osteoporosis to be 2.7 times higher among those with sleep apnea.

• Insomnia was associated with a 52% increased risk of osteoporosis in a recent Norwegian study.

• In animal models lack of sleep was found to halt new bone formation, cause cell damage,  and produce abnormal bone marrow, all likely to be associated with poor bone repair.

These studies highlight that sleep is essential to give us a time and environment for crucial bone repair and regeneration. Inadequate sleep is a pro-inflammatory stressor that results in “repair deficit” — a deficit that goes bone deep.

How much sleep is enough?

While the amount of sleep needed varies by individual, the scientific evidence suggests 7 hours of sleep per night is needed to help reduce physiological and neurobehavioral deficits. Personally I feel best with 8 hours of sleep in the dark winter months, but do just fine with a bit less in the sunny summer.

Better Bones tips for restorative sleep

  1. Take care with caffeine. Try a few days without this stimulant and note any sleep improvement.
  2. Try a non-electronic quieting down period in the evening. Instead of plugging in, try a hot bath, short meditation or the Yoga Nidra sleep audio.
  3. Melatonin regulates nocturnal circadian rhythms. Using 3 mg before bed helps many women sleep better and also builds bone. There is good data that melatonin enhances bone formation, reduces bone breakdown, and has cancer-protective properties to boot.
  4. Finally, sharing my own story of sleep success. I am no stranger to sleep disruptions, and I suspect it’s due to mental over-activity and a “worry-wart” tendency (as my mother would say). Recently I have found the cortisol-controlling adrenal support formula known as Serinisol from Women's Health Network to be a godsend. Using the natural product I feel more calm and at ease during the day and sleep happily, solidly through the night. If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

 

References for the studies mentioned above:
Chen, Y. L., S. F. Weng, Y. C. Shen, C. W. Chou, C. Y. Yang, J. J. Wang, and K. J. Tien. 2014. Obstructive sleep apnea and risk of osteoporosis: A population-based cohort study in Taiwan. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 99(7):2441–2447.

Everson, C. A., A. E. Folley, and J. M. Toth. 2012. Chronically inadequate sleep results in abnormal bone formation and abnormal bone marrow in rats. Experimental Biology and Medicine 237(9):1101–1109.

Everson, C. A., C. J. Henchen, A. Szabo, and N. Hogg. 2014. Cell injury and repair resulting from sleep loss and sleep recovery in laboratory rats. Sleep 37(12):1929–1940.

Fu, X., X. Zhao, H. Lu, F. Jiang, X. Ma, and S. Zhu. 2011. Association between sleep duration and bone mineral density in Chinese women. Bone 49(5):1062–1066.

Sivertsen, B., T. Lallukka, P. Salo, S. Pallesen, M. Hysing, S. Krokstad, and S. Øverland. 2014. Insomnia as a risk factor for ill health: Results from the large population-based prospective HUNT study in Norway. Journal of Sleep Research 23(2):124–132.

Swanson, C. M., S. A. Shea, K. L. Stone, J. A. Cauley, C. J. Rosen, S. Redline, G. Karsenty, and E. S. Orwoll. 2015. Obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic bone disease: Insights into the relationship between bone and sleep. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 30(2):199–211.

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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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