Sleeping for less than six hours a night is a significant risk factor for stroke, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham assessed 5,666 middle-aged adults for up to three years. The participants had a normal body weight, no history of stroke and at low risk for obstructive sleep apnoea.
Sleep deprivation increases risk of stroke
They were divided into five groups according to how many hours a night they slept, and recorded their symptoms every 6 months.
Researchers found that those who regularly slept for less than six hours were more likely to develop stroke symptoms such as numbness or weakness down one side of their body, dizziness, loss of vision or a sudden inability to express verbally or in writing.
Presenting their findings at the Sleep 2012 meeting, scientists at the University of Alabama said the impact of sleep deprivation was a major one, even after taking into account age, weight and other known risks such as high blood pressure.
Co-author Virginia Howard, a professor of epidemiology, said: ‘Many people can have these symptoms and not recognise them as a precursor to having a stroke, and perhaps not even mention them to their doctor.
‘Sleeping habits can exacerbate the potential for these symptoms, which are internationally recognised as putting people at extraordinary risk of subsequent stroke.’
A study of hundreds of thousands of participants by Warwick University last year also linked lack of sleep to increased incidence of both strokes and heart disease. But the latest study focuses on the early symptoms of strokes, which are often ignored.
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