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Stroke: The hidden risk of sleep deprivation

Posted on by Jon E. Bentz, Ph.D.


A Stanford University study of nearly 9,000 people in Texas, New York, and California found that 11 percent reported severe sleepiness during daytime hours, including 13 percent of the women and 8.6 percent of the men. Eighteen percent of the survey participants said they had fallen asleep or had become drowsy in situations like meetings or during conversations.

A variety of lifestyle factors are associated with increased risk of stroke, including a lack of exercise, being overweight, poor dietary habits, and smoking. Now the data suggests that sleep deprivation might also increase risk of stroke.

Identifying the stroke connection

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers analyzed data on 5,666 individuals 45 years and older of normal weight and without symptoms of sleep apnea and discovered some interesting links between stroke and sleep deprivation.

Over three years, the risk of stroke symptoms was four times greater among individuals who slept fewer than six hours a night compared to individuals who reported 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. This increased risk of stroke among those who slept less was present even when the researchers controlled for other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep breathing problems, and being overweight.

Tips for better sleep

If you’re having difficulties with sleep, Edward J. Purzycki, PhD of Lancaster General Health Physicians Neuropsychology, recommends 3 simple guidelines:

  • Get up at the same time each morning.
  • Engage in adequate exercise during the day.
  • Avoid stimulants and alcohol.

Quality restorative sleep is important to your general health and well-being. Poor quality sleep has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, depression, accidents, and now stroke. The potential harmful conditions resulting from inadequate sleep provide new significance to the remark, "Sleep well.”

For more information on stroke risk factors, prevention, and how to spot a stroke FAST, go to

 | Lancaster General Health - Neuro Center

Jon E. Bentz, PhD, ABN, is a clinical neuropsychologist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Neuropsychology. A graduate of East Carolina University and Virginia Tech, Dr. Bentz has worked in the rehabilitation field for more than 30 years, providing assessment and treatment of cognitive and behavioral disorders resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other dementias and neurological disorders.


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