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December 12, 2019

Sleeping – and napping – too long may increase risk of stroke

Senior Health Strokes
Sleep Stroke Risk Gregory Pappas/

Getting more than nine hours of sleep per night may increase the risk of stroke, according to a new study.

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. But new research suggests too much sleep also may increase the risk of stroke. 

People who sleep for at least nine hours a night are 23% more likely to have a stroke than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Additionally, people who get too much sleep at night and nap for at least 90 minutes increase their stroke risk by 85%.

Sleep quality also appears to play a factor, researchers said. Yet, getting less than seven hours of sleep did not increase stroke risk. 

Researchers analyzed data collected from 31,750 Chinese residents who had a history of stroke or another serious health issue. The researchers asked the participants – 62 years old, on average – about their sleeping and napping habits. They then followed them for an average of six years. 

About 8% of the study participants were regular nappers, sleeping for more than 90 minutes for the day, and 24% generally slept for at least nine hours every night. The patients collectively had 1,557 strokes during the study period. 

Because the study was purely observational and could not prove any cause-effect relationships, more research is needed, said researcher Dr. Xiaomin Zhang, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. 

"More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavorable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke," Zhang told MedicalNewsToday.

People who sleep longer also are more likely to have a more sedentary lifestyle, another stroke risk factor, Zhang said. 

"People, especially middle-aged and older adults, should pay more attention to their time spent in bed attempting to sleep and midday napping, and sleep quality, because appropriate duration of sleep and nap, and maintaining good sleep quality may complement other behavioral interventions for preventing stroke," Zhang told U.S. News & World Report.

Someone dies of a stroke, on average, once every 3.7 minutes. That equates to about 390 deaths per day, according to the American Heart Association

Both the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association emphasize the importance of knowing the risk factors for stroke. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor and discuss ways you can lower your risk.

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