Stress, Sleep, and Bone Health: The Holistic Approach for Women

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Wellness

Bone health is an increasing concern for Pakistani women. For example, research has shown that in Pakistan, 97% of women between the ages of 75 and 84 show signs of osteoporosis[1] (a bone disease linked to the loss of bone mineral density and bone mass). What’s more, this concern is not limited to elderly women alone. In the same study, it was found that 55% of women aged between 45 and 54 also struggled with osteoporosis. And a 2019 survey that looked at 1205 Pakistani women, indicated that those between 30 and 39 years of age struggled with low bone mass density[2].

The numbers are particularly alarming because Asian women are likely to have lower bone mass density than other ethnicities[3]. And, amongst Pakistani women, there is a lack of awareness about what impacts bone health and what can be done to preserve it[4].

For example, many of us believe that the only thing necessary for maintaining healthy bones is taking supplements. Some might even think that diet and exercise are the sole factors affecting bone health. However, did you know that stress levels and sleeping patterns can also have a significant impact on your bones? Most people in Pakistan may not be aware of this, and yet these facts could offer an alternative approach to maintaining bone health.

How Stress And Sleep Impact Our Bones

More and more research is revealing that increasing stress levels and reducing sleep is a recipe for poor health. Various markers are impacted negatively because of chronic stress and poor sleep. Interestingly, this extends even to the health of our bones.

Women in particular are impacted by this. A study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative looked at 11,000 post-menopausal women and found that those who slept for five hours or less each night had lower bone density than women who slept for seven hours or more[5]. The research, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in 2019, also indicated that women who had higher levels of social stress in their lives had lower bone density[6].

Considering that these findings are relatively recent, more research is being conducted to understand the complex links between stress and bone health. But, medical professionals and researchers have pointed to some possible factors.

Firstly, chronic stress disrupts the body’s hormones, which may provide an explanation for bone density loss. In particular, chronic stress has been shown to alter the levels of growth hormones in the body, which in turn can impact our bones[7]. Secondly, stress levels have also been linked to higher blood cortisol levels, which is something that has been known to negatively impact bone health[8].

Simultaneously, apart from these physiological factors like hormonal changes, disrupted sleeping patterns and stress can also lead to behavioral changes that aggravate the situation. Research published in the International Journal Of Medical Sciences noted that when people are under stress, they undergo behavioral changes in their diet and lifestyles that worsen bone health[9]. We know that weight training and a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals protect and strengthen bones, and if individuals neglect these they lose out on those benefits. However as recent research indicates, even these behavioral differences are impacted by a lack of sleep and ongoing stress.

How To Stop The Cycle

While the research presents alarming numbers, it also presents viable solutions. It’s important to not look at bone health as an isolated concern, and instead consider how various aspects of your life impact it. The health of your bones is after all one piece of your overall wellness puzzle.

Many focus solely on supplements for nutrition, or relaxants to deal with stress. But overall wellness necessitates alternate long-term changes. Alternative approaches to lifestyle that improve your sleep and help you manage stress can be the answer. Here are some positive changes that you can start making immediately.

1, Turn your room into a relaxing sanctuary. Your bedroom should be your place of solace. Unfortunately, many of us ignore this, leading to poor sleep. Prime your room for restful sleep by limiting distractions (like the television) and never work on your bed. This will help you get adequate rest which in turn will alleviate your stress levels[10].

2, Opt for physical activities that help your bones. Exercise is beneficial for overall health, but it also produces stress-relieving hormones[11]. Additionally, activities like weight training and steady-state cardio have added bone health benefits. Incorporate a  brisk 20-minute walk into your daily routine, along with some weight training for long-term health.

3, Have a sleep schedule. Life gets in the way, but the surest way to have a restful sleep is by sleeping at the same time regularly[12]. Take a page out of your childhood, and have a bedtime. Make it as nonnegotiable as you possibly can.

4, Make dietary changes. A nourishing diet can be the basis of so many healthy improvements. Instead of just adding a supplement to your diet, look at your entire eating plan. Start by making two shifts. First, reduce your caffeine intake, especially after noon. Caffeine stays in your body for up to 12 hours[13]. Be mindful about your consumption so that you can actually rest at night. Simultaneously, stay hydrated so that your body is able to fight off the negative impacts of stress[14]. Improving your stress levels will in turn improve your bone health.

5, Journal. Often, we are unable to sleep because we are stressed about something. Journaling about what you are worried about, or going through is an effective way to manage these stresses[15]. This will allow you to address what you’re worried about, possibly come up with ways to deal with it, and in turn, allow you to rest.

Ultimately, bone health is an essential marker of overall well-being, and for Pakistani women, the numbers do not look promising. But, medical interventions are not the only answer. A holistic approach to bone health involves making changes to our everyday lives. Over time, these alternate ways of living can strengthen and preserve your bones. So, start making these positive shifts today! 
















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