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Study Shows Sleep Disruption Negatively Affects Bone Health

A recent study conducted by Christine Swanson, MD, assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Aurora, shows that inadequate sleep and the associated disruption of the circadian rhythm, can lead to bone loss in men.

The potential implications of this study are immense.

“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% of the estimated 54 million Americans with low bone mass or osteoporosis" said Swanson in a press release.

The Participants

The research assessed 10 healthy men (6 aged 20-27 years and 4 aged 55-65 years) to determine the effect of imposed circadian disruption with sleep loss, similar to the type of stresses associated with rotating shift work, on the biomarkers of bone metabolism.

Study participants were chosen based on the stability of their circadian rhythm at the outset of the study. To qualify, the participants must not have worked regular night-shift work within the previous 3 years. They also could not have traveled more than 2 time zones within the previous 3 months.

The Study

Researchers subjected the participants to chronic 28-hour sleep-wake cycles. The cycle pattern consisted of 21.47 hours awake with 6.53 hours of sleep. This schedule was imposed for 3 weeks and was intended to catalyze circadian disruption.

Throughout the 3 week testing period, the researchers measured bone health biomarkers of the participants through plasma samples taken every 2 hours over 24 hours at baseline.

The results of the study showed that circadian disruption had a negative impact on the markers for bone health. Interestingly, the younger participants of the study experienced a more dramatic detrimental effect.


"In summary, this study found that 3 weeks of sleep restriction with a history of circadian disruption can lead to an uncoupling of bone turnover and a potential bone loss for catabolic window,” concluded Swanson.

"These data suggest that sleep restriction and circadian disruption may be most detrimental to bone health during early adulthood, a critical time for attainment of peak bone mass. Further studies are need to confirm these data and to explore the mechanisms of sex differences.”





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