Sleep loss affects bone formation and blood production

Sept. 22, 2012

Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) have discovered a link between chronic sleep loss and bone and blood production. Results of a new study show chronic sleep restriction leads to an arrest in bone remodeling that could potentially affect healing, along with significant changes in cells produced in bone marrow.

The findings are published in the feature article of the September issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine. The lead author is Carol A. Everson, Ph.D., professor of neurology, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at MCW. Co-authors are Jeffrey M. Toth, Ph.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery at MCW, and Anne Folley, now a graduate student at George Washington University.

Dr. Everson’s team discovered abnormalities in markers of bone metabolism in sleep-restricted rats, which led them to conduct direct measurements of bone parameters in rats which experienced sleep loss during a large portion of young adulthood.

“The results showed a dramatic imbalance marked by an arrest in bone formation without reduced resorption,” Dr. Everson said. “We also noted changes to the blood; fat in the red marrow was greatly diminished and platelet-generating cells had doubled.”

“If the same processes are evoked in humans, the medical implications would be far-reaching for development and aging,” Dr. Everson continued. “We’ve known chronic sleep loss is a health threat, but this study shows, for the first time, specific changes to bone tissue and blood cells in the marrow as a result of sleep loss.”

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