A study published in the April 15 edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism contains evidence to substantiate the claim that, if left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can negatively affect bone health. According to the study, women and elderly patients are at a heightened risk for losing bone health as a consequence of sleep apnea. Researchers examined the medical records of nearly 1,400 people with sleep apnea between 2000 and 2008; they compared them with over 20,600 people who did not have sleep apnea. After extensive follow-up, it was determined that sleep apnea sufferers were 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease.
People with sleep apnea experience frequent breathing interruptions throughout sleep. The hypothesis which follows from this study holds that this oxygen deprivation lowers bone health and leads to osteoporosis. Co-author of the study Dr. Kai-Jen Tien articulated this hypothesis thusly: “Ongoing sleep disruptions caused by obstructive sleep apnea can harm many of the body’s systems, including the skeletal system… When sleep apnea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis… The progressive condition can lead to bone fractures, increased medical costs, reduced quality of life and even death.”
Though this study is a large one, more research is recommended in order to further explore and illuminate the association between sleep apnea and osteoporosis.