Better sleep could mean better bones, so it might be time to add a lower risk of osteoporosis to the long list of sleep benefits.
Stronger bones join such benefits as a lower risk for heart disease, better cognitive function, a stronger immune system, and more as a byproduct of better sleep. Research has found that sleeping longer than five hours per night leads to better bone strength.
A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that sleep time was associated with bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis risk. The work found that post-menopausal women who slept five or fewer hours per night had significantly lower BMD than those who slept more than five hours.
The study featured more than 11,000 women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, and the difference observed between the two groups was the equivalent of about a year of aging.
Much like your mind and other tissue in your body, your bones undergo regenerative processes during sleep. “Bone remodeling” takes place, where old tissue is removed, and new tissue is formed. Inadequate sleep may disrupt the process and cause bone weakness.
This study was a follow-up to address why women who were short on sleep were more likely to suffer a bone fracture than those who got adequate sleep. After taking bone scans from four sites – whole body, hip, neck, and spine – it became apparent that sleep duration has a major effect on bone density.
The good news is that bone health is modifiable. If you’re not clocking in five hours of sleep each night, try improving your night-time routine and pre-sleep rituals. They can include setting a new bedtime, finding relaxing activities before bed, and avoiding screens.
Bone health is about more than sleep, however. You may also improve bone density with a healthy, balanced diet and regular activity. So, like many other illnesses, you may be able to use diet, exercise, and sleep to reduce the risk for osteoporosis and bone breaks.