Insomnia and disrupted sleep may not just make you feel rotten the next day. Scientists have found that they may be a previously unrecognised cause of bone loss.
Researchers at the University of Colorado have just published a new study that found healthy men had lower levels of a key marker for born formation in their blood after just three weeks of sleep restriction and disruption. Meanwhile, the biological marker of bone breakdown remained the same.
The scientists were mimicking the effect of unusual sleep patterns caused by lifestyle issues such as jet lag or shift work, as well as by regular insomnia.
Christine Swanson, the lead researcher and an assistant professor at the university, said that the changed “bone balance” shown by the two markers – in effect, bone breakdown staying the same but bone formation being hampered – could create a “bone loss window: that may lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures.
“If chronic sleep disturbance is identified as a new risk factor for osteoporosis, it could help explain why there is no clear cause for osteoporosis in the approximately 50 percent of the estimated 54 million Americans with low bone mass or osteoporosis,” she said in a release published by Science Daily.
The study defined sleep disruption as an “a mismatch between your intern body clock and the environment, caused by living on a shorter or longer day than 24 hours” and had the study subjects – all men – go to sleep every day four hours later than the previous day, to replicate jet lag. They were also only permitted to sleep for 5.6 hours in every 24-hour period. The men all ate normally during the study period of three weeks.
The study found that younger men suffered a bigger fall in their level of P1NP, which is a bond formation marker founder in the blood than older men did during the study. Their bone ‘reabsorption’ marker, CTX, stayed the same, which indicated that old bone could break down without new bone being formed.
“These data suggest that sleep disruption may be most detrimental to bone metabolism earlier in life when bone growth and accrual are crucial for long-term skeletal health,” Swanson said.
The researchers didn’t have funding to study the impact of sleep deprivation or disruption on women but plan to do so.