A large new study presented on Monday at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston has found that healthy people age 45 and older who routinely get less than six hours of sleep per night are four times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who get seven or eight hours of sleep a night.
The lead author of the study, Megan Ruiter of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, told USA Today that the study is the first to link insufficient sleep to stroke. It is also the first to measure and find a link between lack of sleep and stroke in adults with normal body weight (who are not overweight or obese) and who had no other risk factors for stroke, Ms. Ruiter said.
“People know how important diet and exercise are in preventing strokes,” said Ms. Ruiter. “The public is less aware of the impact of insufficient amounts of sleep. Sleep is important — the body is stressed when it doesn’t get the right amount.”
Approximately 30 percent of American adults — 40.6 million workers — sleep six or fewer hours a day, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Among workers in all shifts, workers in the middle age groups of 30–44 years (31.6%) and 45–64 years (31.8%) were significantly more likely than workers aged 18–29 years (26.5%) or ≥65 years (21.7%) to report short sleep duration,” according to the CDC report.
The number of people who report eight or more hours of sleep a night has dropped from 38% in 2001 to 28%, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults sleep 7–9 hours per day.
A stroke occurs when when a blood clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, according to the CDC. Stroke is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and stroke can cause significant disability, such as paralysis, speech difficulties, and emotional problems.
Known risk factors for stroke include smoking, being overweight and inactivity. With the new study, prolonged lack of sleep is now added to the list of risk factors for stroke.
The Study; Methodology
Over a period of three years, the researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham studied sleep patterns and stroke risk in a group of 5,666 adults.
During this period, the participants self-reported sleep duration and any stroke symptoms at six-month intervals.
The study participants had no history of stroke, no symptoms, and were not at high risk for sleep apnea.
Using statistical analysis, the researchers examined the association between extent of sleep and stroke incidence among the study participants.
The researchers found that stroke risk was four times higher among those participants who routinely reported less than six hours of sleep per night, than among those who reported seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
These findings applied even though body mass index (BMI) (a measurement of the normality of one’s weight in relation to height) was normal for all participants, and all were at low risk for sleep apnea.
“Less sleep is clearly linked to many harmful changes in the cardiovascular system,” Reena Pande, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (who was not involved in the new study) told USA Today.
Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise,” said Megan Ruiter, the lead author of the new study.
See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:
- News on Heart Disease & Stroke;
- What are these conditions; Causes;
- Symptoms & Diagnosis;
For more information on adequate sleep and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare™ resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:
- Diet & Nutrition: Physical Wellness;
- Exercise: Physical Wellness;
- Sleep, Hygiene, Quit Smoking & Other Healthy Practices: Physical Wellness;
- Activities to Preserve Mental Acuity: Intellectual Wellness;
- Social Interaction & A Sense of Connection With Others: Social Wellness;
- Other Areas of Wellness: Emotional, Ethical/ Spiritual & Vocational Wellness; and
- Examples of Healthy Aging: Stories of Inspiring Seniors.
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