Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night significantly increases the risk of stroke or having stroke symptoms in middle-aged adults who are not overweight and have a low risk of sleep-disordered breathing, a new study suggests.
Health providers and their patients should increase their awareness of the impact of sleep on the development of stroke.
It may be important for healthcare providers to ask their patients about their sleep, particularly the patients who have few traditional risk factors for stroke such as obesity or obstructive sleep apnea.
The findings are based on 5666 working adults aged 45 and older enrolled in the well-known Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. All were free of stroke, transient ischemic attack, stroke symptoms, or sleep-disordered breathing at baseline.
The study was different from previous studies on the association between sleep and stroke because experts examined only participants who did not have a high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is known to be associated with stroke events; therefore, in previous studies, the presence of obstructive sleep apnea may have actually explained the association between extremes in sleep duration and stroke.
In a fully adjusted model including adults with normal body-mass index, a nightly sleep duration of less than six hours was strongly associated with a greater incidence of stroke symptoms.
It's estimated that 30% of working adults get less than six hours of sleep each night. 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.
Sleep and sleep-related behaviors are highly modifiable with cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches and/or pharmaceutical interventions. These results may serve as a preliminary basis for using sleep treatments to prevent the development of stroke.
Doctors should be applying this sort of information by telling patients if they are undercutting their sleep requirements and they are capable of more sleep, there are emerging data to suggest that that may be a risk factor for cardiovascular problems like stroke.
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