Study: Sleeping Less Than Five Hours a Night Is Terrible for Your Bones

Let's all hit the pillow a little earlier in 2020

Bad Sleep Leads to Bone Problems

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, sleeping less than five hours a night contributes to a lower bone mineral density as we age. The study contrasted 1,080 women who slept less than five hours with 4,025 who slept for seven hours a night, and discovered that the five-hour-sleepers were more susceptible to osteoporosis in their hips, spine and wrists.

For those who need a refresher, osteoporosis translates to “porous bone.” As we age, our bones lose their mass and density. Under a microscopce, bones have a natural honeycomb pattern. When these holes grow larger, they weaken and are more susceptible to fractures. More often than not, when you hear about an elderly person slipping and breaking his or her wrist (even though the fall wasn’t particularly dramatic), osteoporosis is the culprit. 54 million Americans have it, and according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in every two women will break a bone due to it, along with one in every four men.

While a lack of sleep doesn’t guarantee osteoporosis (the relationship is linked, not causal), it’s not a good idea to be sleeping less than five hours a night. This study reminded us of that news out of the NBA earlier this year, regarding the league’s chronic sleep loss issue, due to constant traveling and evening games. In ESPN’s article on the trend, one neuroscientist even connected the players’ lack of snooze-time to injuries and depression, saying: “The number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less without showing any impairment, rounded to a whole number and expressed as a percent of the population, is zero.”

That’s right. Not even the world’s best athletes can function without sleep. And for the rest of us, the risks associated with shitty sleep — cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression … and now osteoporosis  — are nothing to be trifled with. Let’s all try to unplug and hit the pillow a little earlier in 2020.

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