How sleep affects the health of your bones

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It is generally accepted by the medical world that the recommended average sleep time is 8hrs per evening.

Despite this many people do not get enough sleep in the evening.

According to a 2005 Gallup Poll in the USA the average sleep reported sleep duration was 6.8hrs on the weekdays and 7.4hrs on the weekends.


There are numerous well known consequences of sleep deprivation. Some of the changes that occur include: reduced exercise performance, increases in inflammatory markers such as cortisol, reduced immunity, elevated body inflammation, and altered endocrinology. Reducing sleep to less than 6hrs per night for more than four nights in succession has also been shown to impair cognitive performance and mood.


In addition there is now emerging evidence showing the negative effect of sleep deprivation on our bone health. Healthy bones are necessary for a healthy life.  One of the chief bone problems people encounter is the development of osteoporosis. The seed for osteoporosis is a low bone mineral density (BMD).

Some interesting recent study findings include:

  • A study involving 1146 participants found that sleep deprived women who had less than 6.5hrs sleep per night had lower BMD than sleep adequate women. (>6.5hrs per night).

  • Women who have shorter sleep durations were more likely to have lower total and regional  (ie in specific areas) BMD. This relationship was found in women > 45yrs of age. The study involved 602 Chinese women aged between 18-80yrs.

  • A 25year review of stress fracture risk factors was reviewed in Israeli soldiers. Alarmingly 31% of soldier recruits were incurring shin stress fractures. Only two modifiable risk factors were identified: reducing the cumulative marching and running load, and ensuring recruits received a minimum of 6hrs sleep each night. These two changes resulted in a 62% reduction in stress fracture incidence.

There exists a link between your sleep patterns and the quality of your sleep.

Make a decision to get enough sleep starting from tonight. Your bones will thank you for it!

Brad Beer (APAM, Physiotherapist, POGO Founder, Author)

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