Lack of sleep raises stroke risk

11 June 2012

People who regularly sleep for fewer than six hours a night have an increased risk of a stroke in middle age, researchers say.

Scientists in the US studied 5666 people aged 45 and older who had no history of stroke and were of normal weight.

Over a three-year period they found that those who habitually slept for less than six hours were significantly more likely to suffer a stroke than those who got enough rest.

Lead researcher Dr Megan Ruiter, from the University of Alabama, said people who did not get enough sleep were at risk, even if they were relatively free of other risk factors, such as obesity and sleep-disordered breathing.

‘We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors. Once these traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone.’

She presented the findings at the Sleep 2012 meeting taking place in Boston.

Further research supporting the results would suggest a need for more awareness of poor sleep as a stroke risk factor, said Dr Ruiter.

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