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Neurology Blogs > The hidden risk of sleep deprivation: Stroke

The hidden risk of sleep deprivation: Stroke

Posted by: Jon Bentz on 7/5/2012 7:00:00 AM

You probably have read or heard of studies indicating that a large percentage of Americans are sleep-deprived. Now the data suggests that a lack of sleep might also increase the risk of stroke.

A Stanford University study of nearly 9,000 people in Texas, New York, and California found that 11 percent reported severe sleepiness during daytime hours, including 13 percent of the women and 8.6 percent of the men. Eighteen percent of the survey participants said they had fallen asleep or had become drowsy in situations like meetings or during conversations.

In this series of blogs, we have addressed various lifestyle factors associated with increased risk of stroke, including a lack of exercise, being overweight, poor dietary habits, and smoking. Now the data suggests that sleep deprivation might also increase risk of stroke.

The stroke connection

The link between sleep deprivation and stroke was presented by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers at the recent SLEEP conference in Boston. The analysis looked at data on 5,666 individuals, who were 45 years and older of normal weight and without symptoms of sleep apnea.

Over three years, the risk of stroke symptoms was 4 times greater among individuals who slept fewer than 6 hours a night compared to individuals who reported 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. This increased risk of stroke symptoms among those who slept less was present even when the researchers controlled for other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep breathing problems, and being overweight.

If you’re having difficulties with sleep, Edward J. Purzycki, Ph.D. of Lancaster General Neuropsychology Specialists, recommends a few simple guidelines:

  • Get up at the same time each morning.
  • Engage in adequate exercise during the day.
  • Avoid stimulants and alcohol.

Quality restorative sleep is important to your general health and well-being. Poor quality sleep has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, depression, accidents, and now stroke. The potential harmful conditions resulting from inadequate sleep provide new significance to the remark, "Sleep well.”

Jon Bentz, PhD, ABN, is the manager of Lancaster General Neuropsychology Specialists. A clinical neuropsychologist, he has worked in the rehabilitation field for more than 30 years, providing assessment and treatment of cognitive and behavioral disorders resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other dementias and neurological disorders. He obtained his doctorate from Virginia Tech and is a clinical associate professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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