The Grapevine

How Much Sleep You Get Could Influence Fracture Risk

It is well known that poor sleep is tied to several effects on your mind and body, most of which are not good news. Weight gain, poor mental health, and an increased risk of chronic disease are just a few of them.

But one possible risk that gets less attention is the increased susceptibility to falls and fractures. In a new study from the University of Pittsburgh, sleeping over or under the recommended length was linked to a 25 percent increased odds of experiencing recurrent falls.

Recurrent falls describe two or more falls that occur within a six-month period. Health experts believe this should be evaluated as it could suggest an underlying issue, especially in the case of an older adult.

As per guidelines, experts advise healthy adults to aim for somewhere between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. The research team decided to compare women who followed these guidelines to those whose sleep length fell under or went over the recommended range.

To do this, they examined more than 157,000 women who had enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative. The yearly rate of recurrent falls was seven percent among women who got seven to eight hours of sleep. However, the rate was more than 10 percent in women who slept too less — around five hours of sleep per night — as well as in women who slept too much — around 10 hours of sleep per night.

"Falls are an important public health problem among older adults and lead to moderate to severe injuries. Most fractures occur because of falls, and recent evidence shows that mortality from falls in the US is increasing," said lead author Dr. Jane Cauley, a distinguished professor in the department of epidemiology. "Even though falls are caused by a number of factors, our paper focuses on a novel risk factor: sleep. Results suggest that interventions aimed at improving sleep may reduce the risk of falls."

Short sleep was linked to fractures of the upper limb, lower limb, and central body but showed no association with an increased risk of hip fractures. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Aside from getting enough sleep, increasing physical activity can also be an effective way to reduce the risk. Exercises can help in two ways: First, strength exercises can help by increasing bone density and building muscle to protect against fractures. Secondly, activities like yoga and Tai Chi can help improve balance and reduce the possibility of dangerous falls.

While some people have considered taking vitamin D and calcium supplements, the research around it has turned up mixed results. Earlier this year, a panel of experts made the recommendations, noting that one should not take supplements without informing their doctor.