Study Finds Link Between Risk of Stroke and Sleep

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Sleep problems, such as snoring and sleeping too much or too little, may be associated with an increased risk of stroke, according to researchers. According to study results published online on April 5 in the journal Neurology, snoring during sleep, poor sleep quality, and sleep apnea may also be associated with an increased risk of stroke.  

As per US News, Dr. Christine McCarthy of the University of Galway in Ireland said, “Not only do our results suggest that individual sleep problems may increase a person’s risk of stroke, but having more than five of these symptoms may lead to five times the risk of stroke compared to those who do not have any sleep problems.”  

In a journal news release, McCarthy stated, “Our findings suggest that sleep disorders should be a focus for stroke prevention.”  The researchers examined nearly 4,500 individuals for the study, including more than 2,200 stroke survivors. They were matched with over 2,200 individuals who had not suffered a stroke.  

Participants averaged 62 years of age. They were asked about their sleeping habits, such as napping and breathing difficulties.  

162 individuals who had a stroke slept less than five hours per night, compared to 43 individuals who did not have a stroke. The investigators discovered that those who slept less than five hours were three times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who slept an average of seven hours.  

Another 151 stroke survivors slept longer than nine hours per night, compared to 84 non-stroke patients. Long sleepers were twice as likely to experience a stroke as those who slept for seven hours. In addition, people who napped for more than an hour were 88% more likely to experience a stroke than those who did not.  

In addition, those who snore during sleep are 91% more likely to experience a stroke than those who do not. Nearly three times as likely to suffer a stroke are those who sniff than those who do not. Those with sleep apnea are nearly three times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who do not experience breathing disruptions during sleep.  

The study accounted for other risk factors for stroke, such as smoking, physical activity, depression, and alcohol consumption, but the results remained unchanged. However, it cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship; only an association can be demonstrated.  

Nonetheless, “with these results, physicians could have earlier conversations with patients who have sleep problems,” McCarthy said. Future research should focus on the possibility that interventions to improve sleep may also reduce the risk of stroke. It is a limitation of the study that participants reported their own sleep problems. 


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