Sleep is an important restorative for all systems in our body, including, it turns out, our bones. We think of our bones as being hard, fixed tissues, but in actuality, they are dynamic, undergoing constant reconstruction, especially during sleep. Sleep apnea interferes with this process, contributing to the risk of osteoporosis, reduced bone density.

The Dynamic of Bone

Anatomy of the bones around the torso areaOur bones are naturally in flux. The body is constantly tearing down and rebuilding the bones. Cells known as osteoclasts remove bone cells, and those known as osteoblasts replace them. This process helps ensure that the bone is always made of strong, hard, healthy bone tissue.

It is also essential to bone healing from injuries, whether accidental or surgical, and to the ability of bones to adapt and reshape under constant pressure (such as with orthodontics).

This process follows the body’s circadian rhythms, clocked to the daily sleep-wake cycle. Previous studies have shown that bone resorption reaches its peak around 3 AM, then drops off to a minimum around 7 AM.

Sleep Apnea Interferes with the Bone Rhythm

Several studies recently have begun to highlight the connection between sleep apnea and osteoporosis. A recent study from Taiwan suggests that people with sleep apnea are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than those without. The increased risk is higher for women and older individuals.

However, a new review suggests a mechanism for the connection: interference with the daily rhythm of bone resorption.

It may seem contradictory: how could prevention of bone removal lead to a net decline in bone density? But the process of bone reconstruction is a balance: removal and rebuilding work together to ensure strong bones. Interfering with the removal of bone material may actually lead to a more significant decline in bone deposition.

This new connection highlights the profound impact of sleep apnea on all the body’s systems, including our hearts and bones.

If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea and its treatment, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.