If you typically get less than 6 hours of sleep you may have up to a fourfold increase risk for stroke compared with those who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and more, according to a recent study presented at the SLEEP 2012 conference in Boston this week.
The study, which lasted three years, examined 5,666 adults who were aged 45 and older. They reported their sleep habits and duration and symptoms of strokes every 6 months. The investigators recorded daily health habits, risk factors for stroke, any symptoms of depression, demographic information, health related behaviors, and onset of first stroke like symptoms throughout the study period.
Previous research has already indicated that lack of sleep leads to increased inflammation in the body and release of so-called “stress hormones” which can cause elevated blood pressure–ultimately leading to an increased incidence of cardiac events including heart attacks.
If the findings of this study are confirmed in additional larger studies, we should pause and consider how lack of sleep may ultimately be contributing to and increase our risk for stroke. Specifically, in about one third of patients with ischemic stroke, there is no clear cause– in this case, shortened sleep, may be a possible risk factor. It is unclear what the key component of shortened sleep increases risk for stroke, but the possibility of an elevated level of cortisol, a key stress hormone, may be ultimately responsible.
The take-home message is that getting an adequate amount of sleep may be even more important in a comprehensive approach to reducing your overall risk profile. Cutting back your work hours to get a few extra hours of sleep may ultimately be lifesaving.
Read the full findings in detail here.