Healthy individuals who routinely sleep less than six hours per night are at an elevated risk of developing a stroke-like symptom compared to those who sleep eight to nine hours.
As part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, presented at the annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies, researchers surveyed 5,666 patients on their sleep patterns and stroke-like symptoms, including loss of vision, painless hemibody weakness, or the inability to understand or express oneself in words or writing.
According to study author Megan Ruiter of the University of Alabama, there was a 4.5-fold increase in risk of stroke-like symptoms among individuals who routinely slept less than six hours per night. The symptoms "are significant independent predictors of future stroke events," she added.
In total, 244 participants reported experiences of at least one of the stroke-symptoms across a two-to-three year period. Based on findings, Ruiter speculates that "short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors" Once these factors are present, though, they likely outweigh concerns over sleep duration.
Ruiter suggests that physicians should screen for sleep issues. While heavier patients are known to be at a greater risk of stroke and sleep problems, such as apnea, physicians may not ask patients with healthier body-mass indices about their sleep duration.
Treating poor sleep behaviors is common practice with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy or pharmaceutical interventions. Therefore, given the potential for short sleep duration to negatively influence stroke development, Ruiter states that such treatment could be worthwhile to prevent stroke risks (Susman, MedPage Today, 6/12).