A recent investigation published in the online edition of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests a potential link between sleep disturbances and an increased susceptibility to strokes. The study, which delved into sleep patterns, snoring, and sleep apnea, reveals intriguing associations but doesn’t establish a causal relationship.
According to the research, conducted on a global scale and encompassing 4,496 participants, the risk of stroke was observed to potentially heighten among individuals grappling with diverse sleep-related issues such as inadequate or excessive sleep, extended napping, poor sleep quality, and disruptive conditions like snoring and sleep apnea. Remarkably, those encountering five or more of these challenges demonstrated a substantially amplified risk of stroke. The study, however, falls short of demonstrating that sleep difficulties directly trigger strokes, but rather highlights a noteworthy correlation.
Study author Christine Mc Carthy, MB, BCh, BAO, from the University of Galway in Ireland, underscores the significance of the findings: “Our research not only implies a heightened risk of stroke associated with individual sleep problems but also indicates that encountering five or more of these issues might translate to a fivefold increase in stroke risk compared to those unaffected. This calls attention to the importance of addressing sleep problems as a viable avenue for stroke prevention.”
The comprehensive international study enrolled 4,496 participants, among whom 2,243 had suffered a stroke, paired with 2,253 stroke-free individuals, with the average age of participants resting at 62. A wide array of sleep-related behaviors, spanning sleep duration, sleep quality, daytime napping, snoring, respiratory disruptions during sleep, and more, was examined.
Intriguingly, the research shows that both excessive and insufficient sleep are associated with a heightened likelihood of experiencing a stroke, in comparison to those maintaining moderate sleep durations. Notably, 162 of the stroke-affected participants had received fewer than five hours of sleep, while 43 stroke-free individuals reported the same. Additionally, 151 stroke-affected individuals logged more than nine hours of sleep each night, in contrast to 84 of their unaffected counterparts.
Upon thorough analysis, researchers ascertained that those obtaining less than five hours of sleep were three times more susceptible to strokes than those maintaining an average of seven hours of sleep. Similarly, individuals acquiring more than nine hours of sleep exhibited over twice the risk of stroke in comparison to those with a seven-hour nightly sleep routine.
Prolonged naps surpassing one hour were linked to an 88% increase in stroke risk when contrasted with individuals abstaining from extended daytime naps.
A noteworthy facet of the study lies in the investigation of respiratory disturbances during sleep, encompassing snoring, snorting, and sleep apnea. Participants identified as snorers demonstrated a 91% elevated stroke risk compared to their non-snoring counterparts, while those experiencing snorting episodes were almost three times more vulnerable to strokes. Equally, individuals grappling with sleep apnea faced nearly threefold heightened stroke risk.
Even after meticulous adjustments for confounding variables such as smoking, physical activity, depression, and alcohol consumption, the findings remained robust and consistent.
Christine Mc Carthy emphasized the practical implications of the research: “Armed with these insights, healthcare professionals can engage in earlier dialogues with individuals experiencing sleep problems. Furthermore, interventions designed to enhance sleep quality could potentially serve as a means to mitigate stroke risk, warranting dedicated research in this realm.”
Nonetheless, it is important to note that the study’s reliance on self-reported symptoms of sleep problems introduces a potential limitation, possibly affecting the precision of the information gathered.
For more insights into stroke-related matters, explore BrainandLife.org, the digital home of the American Academy of Neurology’s complimentary publication catering to patients and caregivers, focused on the interface of neurologic conditions and brain health. Stay updated by following Brain & Life® on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Mc Carthy CE, Yusuf S, Judge C, Alvarez-Iglesias A, Hankey GJ, Oveisgharan S, Damasceno A, Iversen HK, Rosengren A, Avezum A, Lopez-Jaramillo P. Sleep Patterns and the Risk of Acute Stroke: Results From the INTERSTROKE International Case-Control Study. Neurology. 2023 May 23;100(21) e2191-203.