Updated 04 July 2014

Sleep apnoea linked to poor bone health

Sleep apnoea causes repeated, brief interruptions in breathing during sleep, and can harm many of the body's systems, including the skeletal system.


People with sleep apnoea, a common sleep disorder, may be at increased risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, especially women and older people, a new study suggests.

Sleep apnoea causes repeated, brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. Untreated sleep apnoea can increase a person's risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Read: Sleep apnoea triggers irregular heartbeat

"Ongoing sleep disruptions caused by obstructive sleep apnoea can harm many of the body's systems, including the skeletal system," said study co-author Dr Kai-Jen Tien, of Chi Mei Medical Centre in Tainan, Taiwan.

"When sleep apnoea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis," Tien said. "The progressive condition can lead to bone fractures, increased medical costs, reduced quality of life and even death."

Heightened risk of other conditions

For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers analysed the medical records of nearly 1 400 people in Taiwan diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea between 2000 and 2008. They compared them with more than 20 600 people who did not have the sleep disorder.

Over six years of follow-up, people with sleep apnoea were 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. The risk for the bone-thinning disease was highest among women and older people with sleep apnoea, according to the study.

"As more and more people are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea worldwide, both patients and health care providers need to be aware of the heightened risk of developing other conditions," Tien said in a journal news release. "We need to pay more attention to the relationship between sleep apnoea and bone health so we can identify strategies to prevent osteoporosis."

However, the study only noted an association between sleep apnoea and osteoporosis. It does not prove that one causes the other.

Read more:
Sleep apnoea raises heart risks
Spinal injuries can cause sleep apnoea
Preventing osteoporosis

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Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

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