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Study links amount of sleep to risk of falls, fractures among women

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Pittsburgh — Getting too little or too much sleep may increase a woman’s risk for recurrent falls – and subsequently more fractures – according to the results of a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers looked at the association between self-reported sleep and falls and fractures using data on sleep quality, sleep duration and insomnia from 157,306 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term national study of women between 50 and 79 years old. They found that women who slept five hours or less or 10 hours or more were about 25 percent more likely to experience recurrent falls (at least two per year).

The annual rate of recurrent falls among women who slept five hours or less was 10.6 percent – less than the 11.8 percent rate for women who slept at least 10 hours a night. For those who slept between seven and eight hours, the rate was 7 percent.

Regarding fractures, short sleepers had a 10 percent to 13 percent increased risk compared with women who slept about seven hours. Short sleepers also were most commonly associated with arm and leg fractures, as well “central body” fractures. No increased risk was noted for hip fractures.

“Falls are an important public health problem among older adults and lead to moderate to severe injuries,” Jane Cauley, lead author and professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said in a Nov. 21 press release. “Most fractures occur because of falls, and recent evidence shows that mortality from falls in the United States is increasing.

“Results suggest that interventions aimed at improving sleep may reduce the risk of falls.”

The research was published in the Nov. 21 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

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