Improving the quality of our sleep can have positive effects on factors ranging from motor skills to weight control. Did you know that a good night’s sleep might also impact bone health?
Our bones are in a lifelong cycle of repair. Mature bone tissue is regularly removed from our skeleton and replaced with new bone tissue. This process is called bone remodeling or bone metabolism. In addition to maintaining the strength, flexibility, and density of our bones, bone remodeling also controls the repair of bone. Whether our bones are weakened by micro-damage as the result of the normal wear and tear of everyday activities, or are fractured by a traumatic injury, bone remodeling responds by reshaping or replacing damaged bone structure. An imbalance in the bone remodeling process can cause metabolic bone diseases, including osteoporosis.
Over the past few years, research has suggested that sleep deprivation may have an effect on our bone remodeling function. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin discovered a link between chronic lack of sleep and abnormalities in the development of both bone and bone marrow. When laboratory animals were deprived of sleep, there was a dramatic imbalance in bone growth. Sleep-deprived animals stopped forming new bone, and the bone they did have gradually lost density. Lack of sleep also affected bone marrow, leading to diminished bone flexibility. Bone flexibility is vital to preventing fractures.
The study results suggest that sleep deprivation could also have affect bone remodeling in humans. Life moves at a fast pace, and many of us are dealing with stresses that can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Chronic sleep issues could be a factor in gradual decreased bone density and the development of osteoporosis as we age.
We know that a good night’s sleep is important for general good health and productivity during our waking hours. Now we have one more reason to cultivate good sleep habits: that sound night’s sleep may be keeping our bones healthy and strong.