Every health condition comes with its own sleep challenges; osteoporosis is no exception.But while back pain may keep you awake at night, there are other important issues surrounding sleep, bedtime, and bone health you should bear in mind.
For best absorption, take calcium at night
I’m assuming you take a daily calcium pill, right? Most of us do. But if you’re popping a 1000mg calcium tablet first thing in the morning, along with your multivitamin, you’re shooting yourself in the foot - and in the back, wrist, and every other part of your skeleton.
Your body can only absorb about 500mg calcium at a time. So when you take a 1000mg supplement, half is simply being flushed away. Replace that 1000mg tablet with two 500mg tabs, taking one in the morning, one at night.
A small serving of carbs just before bed helps you sleep; and calcium is absorbed more readily when taken with food. So grab a few crackers, an apple (sugar is a simple carb), or something equally light. Take your supplement, and head to bed. Your body will have all night to absorb that calcium. (Hamel, 2009)
Clear the decks
Taking a fall can have tragic consequences when you have osteoporosis; and a broken hip can be particularly devastating. It’s predicted 33% of Boomer women will break a hip. And 20% of that 33% - about 7 out of every 100 women - will die within a year of that injury. That’s a bigger number than the percentage of women who die from breast cancer.
I know you tread carefully during the day, watching out for curbs, avoiding slippery sidewalks, and making sure any rugs in your home are safely secured. But what about at night, once you’re in bed?
I daresay not many of us stay in bed all night. Insomnia, the inevitable trip to the bathroom, the dog barking" there are many things that rouse us from sleep, and thence out of bed. And rolling out of bed is often just that; a half-asleep, hasty roll upright followed by stepping out - into darkness. A groggy step into darkness is a tumble waiting to happen.
Before you go to bed, make sure any area of the bedroom/hall/bathroom/stairs you’re liable to navigate at night is free of obstacles. That means no laundry basket at the top of the stairs; make sure you didn’t leave shoes or slippers beside the bed right where you’ll step on them; and DON’T let the dog sleep anywhere you might trip over him!
Get ready for the morning pill routine
Many of us take an oral bisphosphonate as the first line of defense against bone deterioration. Typically, the osteoporosis patient is advised - make that ordered - to take it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with 6 to 8 ounces of plain water. After that, the person may not eat anything for 30 minutes, and must also remain upright during that time.
OK, it doesn’t sound complicated; but what happens if you make a mistake along the way? Hey, we’re talking early morning and an empty stomach (bleary eyes, a fuzzy brain), a situation where most of us don’t function very well. What if you blow off your routine, and the pill doesn’t get to its intended destination, instead lingering too long in your stomach?
Severe gastrointestinal problems, including heartburn. And if you repeatedly ignore the very specific routine for taking these problematic drugs, you might experience esophagitis, nausea, ulcers, abdominal pain, headache, joint/muscle pain, constipation, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, and increased gas. (Hamel, 2008)
Bottom line: When you go to bed, have the pill and water ready; the alarm set; and the resolve to get up the next morning and carefully go through the steps necessary for that Boniva pill to effectively do its work.
Hamel, P. (2008, October 30). Bisphosphonates: The drugs we love to hate. Retrieved from https://www.healthcentral.com/osteoporosis/c/53591/46961/actonel-drugs
Hamel, P. (2009, July 10). Bone-building 101: Taking calcium the right way. Retrieved from https://www.healthcentral.com/osteoporosis/c/53591/77960/bone-building
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.