People who have sleep problems may be more likely to have a stroke, according to a study published online today in Neurology®. Sleep problems included getting too much or too little sleep, taking long naps, having poor quality sleep, snoring, snorting and sleep apnea. In addition, those who had five or more of these symptoms had an even greater risk of stroke. The authors suggest that sleep problems should be an area of focus for stroke prevention, while noting that the study is observational, so cannot prove that sleep problems actually cause a stroke.
The international study involved 2,243 who had a stroke who were matched to a similar group of 2,253 people who did not have a stroke. Participants average age was 62.
In a survey, participants were asked about their sleep behaviors, including how many hours of sleep they got, sleep quality, napping, snoring, snorting and breathing problems during sleep.
People who slept for too many (more than 9) hours or too few (less than 5) hours per night were more likely to have a stroke than those who slept an average of 7 hours.
Specifically, people who got less than 5 hours of sleep were 3 times more likely to have a stroke than those who got 7 hours, and those who got more than 9 hours of sleep were more than twice as likely to have a stroke than those who got 7 hours a night.
People who took naps longer than one hour were 88% more likely to have a stroke than those who did not.
The researchers also looked at breathing problems during sleep, including snoring, snorting and sleep apnea. People who snored were 91% more likely to have stroke than those who did not and those who snorted were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than those who did not. People with sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than those who did not.
Results remained similar after adjustment for other factors that could affect the risk of stroke such as smoking, physical activity, depression and alcohol consumption.
The authors suggest that interventions to improve sleep may also reduce the risk of stroke, though additional research is needed.