Posted on Jun 08, 2023, 7 p.m.
According to a study recently published in the AAN’s Neurology Journals, those who are struggling to fall asleep are more likely to experience a stroke, and those under the age of 50 face the greatest risk. Additionally, having 1-4 symptoms of insomnia carried a 16% increased risk of suffering a stroke.
A stroke refers to a condition in which blood is cut off from reaching the brain. Sleep disorder symptoms that are linked to stroke include but are not limited to finding it hard to fall asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, not being able to go back to sleep after waking up, and not feeling rested/ feeling tired in the morning.
For this study, 31,125 participants with an average age of 61, with no history of stroke at the beginning of the study were followed for 9 years. Participants provided sleep-related information such as how hard it was to fall asleep, how hard it was to remain sleeping, if they woke up too early, if they can fall back to sleep after waking up, and whether or not they felt tired or rested after they woke up. Answers were most of the time, sometimes, rarely and/or never, and scores ranged from 0-8 with the higher number indicating more severe sleep issues.
Findings revealed that during the 9 years, there were 2,101 cases of stroke: of the 458 insomniacs aged 50 years old, 27 had experienced a stroke, and among the 654 with 5-8 symptoms, 33 had suffered a stroke. Among the 19,149 participants with 1-4 symptoms of insomnia, 1,300 suffered a stroke, and among the 5,695 participants with 5-8 symptoms of insomnia, 436 experienced a stroke. Additionally, among the 6,282 participants with no symptoms (controls), 365 suffered a stroke.
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University report that the risk of stroke increased by 51% among those who were experiencing 5-8 insomnia symptoms, and the sleep stroke association was found to be the strongest among those who were under the age of 50. If participants under the age of 50 had 5-8 symptoms of insomnia their risk of stroke was nearly 4 times as likely than those who were good sleepers. Those aged 50+ with the same amount of symptoms had a 38% increased risk of stroke than their well-rested peers. The stroke risks were found to increase even further among those with depression, diabetes hypertension, and heart disease.
“There are many therapies that can help people improve the quality of their sleep, so determining which sleep problems lead to an increased risk of stroke may allow for earlier treatments or behavioral therapies for people who are having trouble sleeping and possibly reducing their risk of stroke later in life,” says study author Wendemi Sawadogo, MD, MPH, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“This difference in risk between these two age groups may be explained by the higher occurrence of stroke at an older age,” Sawadogo adds. “The list of stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes can grow as people age, making insomnia symptoms one of many possible factors. This striking difference suggests that managing insomnia symptoms at a younger age may be an effective strategy for stroke prevention. Future research should explore the reduction of stroke risk through management of sleeping problems.”
A quick response can help to significantly improve the outcome of those experiencing a stroke and reduce the risk of long-term disability or death. To help people recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke quickly the acronym FAST was developed:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
- Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is critical when a stroke is occurring.
Acting FAST could potentially save the life of a friend or loved one. But remember that these are not the only symptoms, a person could also be presenting other symptoms such as confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or a lack of coordination.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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