It's been linked to depression, strokes, and even cancer.  And the latest study finds that sleep apnea might also be linked to poor bone health.  

The study, published April 15 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that sleep apnea sufferers may be at increased risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, especially women and seniors.

If you're not familiar with the condition, sleep apnea causes continual, brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. This not only affects the body's oxygen supply, it also interrupts sleep.  If left untreated, studies have found that sleep apnea can decrease a person's cognitive abilities and increase their risk of depression, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.  

For this latest study, researchers looked at the affect sleep apnea might have on the body's skeletal system.  Researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly 1,400 people in Taiwan who were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea between 2000 and 2008 and more than 20,600 people who did not have the sleep disorder.

Over six years of follow-up, researchers found that people with sleep apnea were 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. The risk for the bone-thinning disease was highest among women and older people with sleep apnea, according to the study.

"Ongoing sleep disruptions caused by obstructive sleep apnea can harm many of the body's systems, including the skeletal system," said study co-author Dr. Kai-Jen Tien, of Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan, Taiwan.  "When sleep apnea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis," Tien said.

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