We all know that a bad night’s sleep can leave us feeling worse for wear, but did you ever stop to think that your troubled nights might mean more than just unproductive days? If the number of studies investigating the association of sleep with health is anything to go by, chances are you have — but while many studies have connected sleep duration with stroke risk, the exact nature of this association remains unclear.
In an attempt to shed some light on the matter, researchers from the University of Cambridge have conducted a study of almost 10,000 ‘sleepers’ to determine exactly how sleep patterns could influence your likelihood of stroke. The sleepers were asked to rate their sleep quality, and to estimate how many hours of sleep they got each night; their responses over time were matched to stroke incidence.
The long and the short of it
The study showed that contrary to what many people might believe, and certainly from a stroke-risk point of view, there is more than one way to get a bad night’s sleep: while overall, short sleep (less than six hours) correlated with a 19% and long sleep (longer than eight hours) a 45% increased risk of stroke, short-sleeping was more strongly associated with stroke in younger subjects (ischemic stroke, specifically), and long-sleeping was only a significant risk factor in subjects age more than 63 years and more associated with hemorrhagic stroke. And with a shift from short- to long-sleeping in older sleepers, that risk increased further.
Sleep: one to watch?
So what does this tell us? It tells us that in monitoring the amount of sleep we get, we may have a marker that can indicate the likelihood of stroke as we get older. And while its application needs to be further investigated in additional clinical studies, the possibility of being able to use sleep to predict stroke risk is something that might help us all rest a little easier.
The lead author or this study is Yue Leng, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.