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Sleep problems may increase stroke risk


Photo: Tero Vesalainen/iStockphoto

Do you sleep too little – or too much? Or maybe you snore or have obstructive sleep apnea. Any of these conditions could put you at increased risk for stroke, researchers say.

The international team asked nearly 4,500 people – almost half of whom had experienced a stroke – about their sleep behaviors. Respondents answered questions about how many hours of sleep they got, sleep quality, napping, snoring, snorting and breathing problems during sleep.

The researchers found that the participants who snored were 91% more likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t. Meanwhile, the participants who snorted or had OSA were almost three times more likely to have a stroke.

Other findings:

  • Getting less than five hours of sleep (instead of the recommended seven hours) was associated with a threefold increase in stroke risk.
  • Getting more than nine hours of sleep was associated with a twofold increase in stroke risk compared with getting seven hours a night.
  • Naps lasting longer than an hour were linked to an 88% more likelihood of having a stroke.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking, physical activity, depression or alcohol consumption, the researchers found that the results remained the same.

“Our results suggest that sleep problems should be an area of focus for stroke prevention,” study co-author Christine McCarthy, from the University of Galway in Ireland, said in an American Academy of Neurology press release. “With these results, doctors could have earlier conversations with people who are having sleep problems. Interventions to improve sleep may also reduce the risk of stroke and should be the subject of future research.”

The study was published online in Neurology.

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