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Lack of sleep "top risk of stroke"

Getting under six hours of sleep can increase risk of stroke, a new study suggests. The risk is greatest for employed people of middle to older age who don’t have a history of other stroke symptoms.

Image: Michael Mandiberg via Flickr/Creative Commons

GETTING LESS THAN six hours of sleep a night can increase the risk of stroke, say researchers.

A new American study showed that those with the greatest risk of stroke were employed, in middle to older age, of a normal weight and with no sleep apnea.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and involved 5,666 people.

The study was presented at the SLEEP 2012 conference yesterday. The participants had no history of stroke or stroke symptoms and were not high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Their health was tracked for three years by the researchers.

The researchers – after adjusting for body-mass index (BMI) – found “a strong association” with daily sleep periods of less than six hours, and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults.

The same study showed no association between short sleep periods and stroke symptoms among overweight and obese participants.

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Lead author Megan Ruiter, PhD, explained more:

In employed middle-aged to older adults, relatively free of major risk factors for stroke such as obesity and sleep-disordered breathing, short sleep duration may exact its own negative influence on stroke development. We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors, and once these traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone.

Ruiter added that further research may support the results, which would provide a strong argument for increasing physician and public awareness of the impact of sleep as a risk factor for stroke symptoms. This is especially the case with persons who appear to have few or no traditional risk factors for stroke, she said.

Sleep and sleep-related behaviours are highly modifiable with cognitive-behavioural therapy approaches and/or pharmaceutical interventions. These results may serve as a preliminary basis for using sleep treatments to prevent the development of stroke.

Ruiter and colleagues collected their data as part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, led by George Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.

Read: Almost 60 per cent more women than men dying from stroke>

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