Lack of Sleep Could Diminish Bone Health in Women

Women who do not get enough sleep may be putting themselves at risk for reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis, according to findings from a new study.

“Short sleep duration, recognized as a public health epidemic, is associated with adverse health conditions, yet little is known about the association between sleep and bone health. We tested the associations of usual sleep behavior and bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis,” the researchers stated. Their findings were published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

The study included 11,084 postmenopausal women (mean [SD] age, 63.3 [7.4] years) participating in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). Participants self-reported usual hours of sleep and sleep quality using the WHI Insomnia Rating Score; these reports were linked to whole body, total hip, femoral neck, and spine BMD. The relationship between sleep duration and quality with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-defined low bone mass (T‐score < −2.5 to <−1) and osteoporosis (T‐score ≤ −2.5) was evaluated with multinomial regression models. Adjustments were made for age, DXA machine, race, menopausal symptoms, education, smoking, physical activity, body mass index, alcohol use, physical function, and sleep medication use.

Women who slept five hours or less per night had about 0.012 to 0.018 g/cm2 significantly lower whole body, total hip, femoral neck, and spine BMD than women who slept at least seven hours each night. Women with fewer hours of nightly sleep also had greater odds of low bone mass (odds ratio [OR] 1.22, 95% CI 1.03–1.45) and osteoporosis of the hip (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.15–2.31); similar outcomes presented for spine BMD: women with little nightly sleep were more likely to have osteoporosis (adjusted OR 1.28; 95% CI 1.02–1.60). Sleep quality and DXA BMD were not significantly correlated.

“Our study suggests that sleep may negatively impact bone health, adding to the list of the negative health impacts of poor sleep. I hope 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,” said lead study author Heather Ochs-Balcom, PhD, of the University at Buffalo, in a press release.

In their conclusion the study authors called for future longitudinal studies to confirm their findings.