Sleep and Stroke Risk

Despite its importance, many people simply don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. But what about those people who get too much shut eye? Believe it or not, such individuals might be at greater risk of stroke.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Appearing in the journal Neurology, this study reviewed the sleeping habits and stroke history of nearly 32,000 people. In terms of age, this group skewed older, with an average age of 61.7 years. Each of these subjects completed a series of questionnaires regarding sleep quality and sleep duration during the preceding six month period. They were also quizzed about their daytime napping habits. 

The authors then monitored these subjects over the next six years, during which a total of 1438 strokes were documented. In addition, the authors believe that another 119 probable strokes occurred during this timeframe, though they couldn’t be confirmed due a lack of relevant documentation. 

Of this group, the team noted that heavy sleepers seemed to be at greater risk of stroke. Compared to those who slept seven or eight hours per night, people who got nine or more hours of sleep on a nightly basis were 23 percent more likely to be stroke victims. A similar pattern was noted amongst those who took mid-day naps last 90 minutes or longer; these subjects had an increased stroke risk of 25 percent. 

Heavy sleepers who were also senior citizens (those aged 65 and older) with a history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia or diabetes appeared to have an elevated stroke risk. Stroke was also more likely to strike overweight individuals who routinely napped over 90 minutes at a time.

Quality over Quantity

In a statement to the website Medscape Medical News, lead researcher Xiaomin Zhang stated that her team “wish[ed] physicians suggest people, especially middle-aged and older adults, pay more attention to their time spent in bed…and [advise them] to maintain good sleep quality.” Zhang further noted that the report “suggests the importance of moderate napping and sleeping duration and maintaining good sleep quality not only to prevent coronary heart disease but also to prevent stroke.”

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