A woman is suffering from a sleep disturbance.

Sleep disturbance can weaken bone development.

It always seems like sleep escapes us, and when we don’t receive enough this can negatively affect our health. Sleep disturbance has long been associated with the development of harmful conditions. While a lack of sleep can seem like no big deal, depriving yourself of the proper amount will only make things worse. Some researchers are still discovering links between certain diseases and a lack of sleep. Recently, the University of Colorado found that prolonged sleep disturbance can lead to lower bone formation.

Bone Formation

Our bones are the structure of our body, giving us shape and supporting mobility. They also provide a variety of benefits that most are unaware of. For example, the bones produce blood that the body uses and they protect the internal organs from damage.

Like many other parts of the body, the bones replace old cells with new ones. Bone formation allows for the development of new and healthy bones. When this process in disturbed, the bones become weaker and more prone to damage. This condition is called osteoporosis.

Why Sleep Disturbance Is a Risk

Researchers at the University of Colorado tested 10 healthy men for three weeks. During that time, the subjects stayed at a lab to be monitored. In order to mimic sleep restriction, the men were tasked with sleeping four hours later than they did the previous day. They were also only allowed to sleep for 5.6 hours per 24-hour period.

Behavior like this is common for people who work late shifts or travel a lot. Odd work hours can force some to sleep at different times for short periods of time and people who travel are likely to suffer from jetlag. This sleep disturbance interferes with the circadian rhythms. This is our body internal clock, which tells us when we should sleep. The results of the study showed that after three weeks, all the men had significantly reduced levels of a bone formation marker called P1NP.

What Researchers Had to Say

“This altered bone balance creates a potential bone loss window that could lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures,” lead investigator Christine Swanson, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colo., said. Swanson completed the research while she was a fellow at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., with Drs. Eric S. Orwoll and Steven A. Shea.

“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,” Swanson said.

“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,” she said.

This study is a shining example of why people should try to get more sleep. The CDC believes sleep health is important and found that more than 25 percent of the U.S. population receives an inadequate amount of sleep. To find out how much sleep you need, visit the CDC’s sleep guidelines.