Sleep Less Than 6 Hours Nightly? It Could Hike Your Stroke Risk

How many hours of sleep do you normally get each night? If it’s less than six, you could be significantly boosting your stroke risk.

A new study found that among employed adults age 45 and older who were otherwise healthy and of normal weight, getting too little shut-eye appeared to more than quadruple their risk of stroke symptoms, reports msnbc.com.

The study, presented Monday at SLEEP 2012, the annual meeting of the nation’s sleep experts, followed 5,666 older adults for up to three years. All the participants had no history of stroke or stroke symptoms and were at low risk for sleep apnea — a condition where a person briefly stops breathing while they’re asleep.

The researchers found a strong association — but not a specific cause and effect — between stroke risk and too little sleep.

“The really important take-home message is this: Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise,” said study author Megan Ruiter of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Sleep experts recommend that we get seven to nine hours nightly, but a recent government study found that 30 percent of working adults get six hours or less.

While previous research has shown that too-little sleep can lead to heart problems, this is the first study to focus on stroke symptoms among people of normal weight.

Surprisingly, researchers found no increased stroke risk among overweight or obese people who snoozed less than six hours nightly.

In other health news:

Mental exercises key to better brain function. Some research suggests that certain types of mental exercises — whether they are memory games on your mobile device or jotting down letters backward — might help our gray matter maintain concentration, memory and visual and spatial skills over the years, USA Today reports.

Never too late to quit smoking, no matter what your age. Reuters reports that ex-smokers live longer than those who haven’t kicked the habit, no matter what age group you look at, according to a new report that looked at the link between smoking and death in seniors in paticular. “This fact calls for effective smoking cessation programs that are likely to have major preventive effects even for smokers aged 60 years and older,” German researchers write in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Noisy hospitals need Rx for quiet as patients rest. From the Associated Press, new research finds that hospitals need a prescription for quiet, but unfortunately it may not be easy to tamp down all the noise for a good night’s sleep. In fact, the wards with the sickest patients – the intensive care units – can be the loudest.

Photo credit: Courtesy sleepzine.com