2 Very Surprising Sleep Apnea Side Effects: Bone Loss and Osteoporosis

One of the lesser known of these sleep apnea side effects is an increased risk for osteoporosis.

sleep apnea side effects

People with sleep apnea are at an increased risk for several serious diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are daytime sleepiness and fatigue, along with decreased concentration, dry throat, and mood changes. And while these symptoms can greatly interfere with daily functioning, sleep apnea can cause deeper, more serious problems in the body if left untreated. In fact, people with sleep apnea are at an increased risk for several serious diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One of the lesser known of these sleep apnea side effects is an increased risk for osteoporosis.

The Association Between Sleep Apnea and Osteoporosis

Several studies suggest that sleep apnea may be an under-recognized cause of osteoporosis.[1] In 2014, researchers looked at data from about 1,400 people with sleep apnea and over 20,000 people without sleep apnea. Even after adjusting for various possible confounding factors, the researchers found that people with sleep apnea were 2.7 times more likely to develop osteoporosis compared to the healthy controls.[2] Another study found that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients with sleep apnea had significantly lower bone mineral density scores than those without sleep apnea.[3]

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Bone Health?

So far, researchers can’t say for sure that sleep apnea causes osteoporosis, only that there is a strong association between the two conditions. But there are many theories that would explain the link. For one, people with sleep apnea have decreased oxygen intake during the night because of disrupted (and sometimes cessation of) airflow. Lack of oxygen can cause inflammation, an acidic environment, and other conditions that promote bone breakdown.[1]

Sleep apnea is strongly associated with inflammation, one of the major causes of bone loss. Patients with sleep apnea show increased levels of inflammatory markers,[2] which may explain why sleep apnea may cause bone density loss.

Researchers also believe that sleep loss itself is detrimental to bone health. Bone formation and breakdown seem to work in tune with our circadian rhythms, meaning that regular sleep and wake patterns are needed for proper bone health. Sleep apnea can disrupt the circadian rhythm, which may lead to an imbalance of bone metabolism and bone loss.[1]

Treating Sleep Apnea Side Effects to Keep Your Bones Healthy

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or if you suspect you might have it, finding effective treatment is key. Not only will treating your sleep apnea help you to have more energy during the day, it will also protect your body against a variety of serious health problems, including osteoporosis.

For a detailed discussion on sleep apnea, including symptoms and four non-CPAP treatment options, go here. You may be able to use supplements like vitamin D, DHA, and antioxidants, along with healthy diet and exercise, to treat your condition and protect your bones. Get started today.

Share Your Experience

Do you have sleep apnea? What sleep apnea side effects have you experienced? Share your favorite sleep apnea natural treatment options in the comments section below.

Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.

[1] J Bone Miner Res. 2015 Feb;30(2):199-211.

[2] J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jul;99(7):2441-7.

[3] Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2015 Jan 29;10:231-7.

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UHN Staff

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