Obstructive sleep apnea raises osteoporosis risk, may impact bone health

Obstructive sleep apnea raises osteoporosis risk, may impact bone healthThe respected Journal of Bone and Mineral Research has confirmed an association between obstructive sleep apnea and bone health, specifically as it relates to osteoporosis. According to a study published in the journal, it appears as if obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can raise the risk of osteoporosis.

Our bodies work on what is called circadian rhythms – physical, mental, as well as behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. This cycle responds to light and darkness within our environment. Scientists tell us that this rhythm is very important for our metabolism and overall health. Our biological clock synchronizes our circadian rhythms. When there is a disruption with the clock, it in turn disturbs the rhythm. This can happen with sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea. The latest study indicates that clock genes have been identified in all cells of the body, including the bones cells.


According to researchers, “osteoblasts” are cells that are involved in bone formation. When their count is decreased due to disturbed sleep, bone health may be jeopardized.  The experts also say that the daily rhythm of bone turnover is important for normal bone health, but this sleep apnea study shows sleep duration, sleep quality, oxygen levels, and inflammation levels may have an impact on bone metabolism.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients are  more  likely to develop osteoporosis: previous study

Sleep apnea linked to bone disease is not an entirely new notion. In 2014, a study in Taiwan concluded that those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are twice more likely to develop osteoporosis than those who do not have sleep apnea.

Doctors from Chi Mei Medical Center looked at data from over 1,300 patients with sleep apnea. They were compared with 20,000 people without the sleep disorder. What the doctors found was that OSA sufferers had an incident ratio rate of 2.52 for developing osteoporosis compared to those without OSA.

It is important to know that some of the participants with sleep apnea were monitored for over ten years so that doctors could get an accurate account of their health. The doctors pointed out they discovered that older patients and female patients had the higher risk of osteoporosis as compared to men and younger participants in the study.

When the study concluded, doctors noted that “repetitive hypoxia”, a lower than normal concentration of oxygen in arterial blood, may impact bone metabolism and contribute to osteoporosis.

Treat sleep apnea to keep bones healthy, avoid osteoporosis

Obstructive sleep apnea has not only been linked to bone disease. Other research studies have shown a link to many other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. If you have sleep apnea that is moderate or severe, you need to apply strategies to address it.

Here are some treatment options to avoid osteoporosis and other health conditions:

  • Supplemental oxygen to use while sleeping
  • Breathing devices
  • Treatments for conditions that might be causing the apnea
  • Special dental devices
  • Positional therapy (to avoid sleeping on your back)
  • Surgery (eliminates throat tissue that may block airway)

One of the most common treatments for moderate to severe sleep apnea is a CPAP or Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure. The device is a mask attached to a machine. The mask covers your nose and mouth. It provides a constant flow of air to keep your breathing passages open while you are sleeping. A sleep specialist can guide you on how to use a CPAP properly.

Some people find when they lose weight, sleep apnea disappears. This is due to the fact that overweight people can have thick necks with extra tissue that blocks their airways. Keep in mind there is no guarantee that you will cure your sleep apnea by losing weight. Not everyone is built the same.

Effect of sleep duration and timing on osteoporosis risk

Obstructive sleep apnea raises osteoporosis risk, may impact bone healthWhile the studies referred to thus far seem to suggest that getting a good, uninterrupted sleep is best to avoid osteoporosis, there is also some evidence that points to a connection between sleep duration and timing as a risk to bone health.

Over 30 thousand patients in China between the ages of 45 and 86 took part in a sleep analysis last year. They went through medical examinations, which included tests for osteoporosis, and answered questions about their sleep patterns. What the research team realized was that men with early sleep timing – they went to bed before 9 p.m. – were more likely to have osteoporosis than those who with normal sleep timing, going to bed between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Both men and women who had early sleep timing and long sleep duration were more likely to suffer from bone health issues.

The evidence certainly appears to be mounting, and more people are now asking, can sleep apnea cause osteoporosis? While many in the medical community aren’t ready to make a bold statement about the connection, it seems that some are now more convinced than before that OSA can be a contributing factor to osteoporosis.

If you suspect you might have bone health issues, such as osteoporosis, seek guidance from a doctor as soon as possible. It is important to your overall health and longevity.

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