Difficulty Sleeping? It Could Indicate a Higher Stroke Risk

by Hiroshi Tanaka
Insomnia and Stroke Risk

A recent study has discovered a link between symptoms of insomnia, such as problems with falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, and an escalated risk of stroke, predominantly in individuals under 50 years of age. The research emphasized the potential benefits of managing insomnia symptoms at a younger age for stroke prevention, although it highlighted the study’s limitation: the self-reported nature of insomnia symptoms, which may lack accuracy.

The study reveals an amplified risk level for individuals younger than 50.

Symptoms linked to insomnia, like problems in falling asleep, sustaining sleep, or premature waking, could indicate an increased stroke risk, according to a recently conducted study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The researchers identified a considerably raised risk particularly in individuals below the age of 50. It’s crucial to clarify, however, that the study identifies a correlation, not a cause-effect relationship, between insomnia symptoms and stroke.

“There exist numerous therapies to enhance sleep quality, so pinpointing which sleep problems contribute to a heightened stroke risk could enable earlier treatment or behavioral therapies for those struggling with sleep, potentially reducing their future stroke risk,” stated Wendemi Sawadogo, MD, MPH, Ph.D., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study incorporated 31,126 individuals, averaging 61 years old, with no prior history of stroke.

Participants responded to four queries regarding their frequency of difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up too early and inability to fall back asleep, and feeling rested in the morning. Response options varied from “most of the time” to “sometimes” or “rarely or never.” Scores extended from zero to eight, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms.

The participants were then tracked over an average period of nine years. During this timeframe, 2,101 cases of stroke were reported.

After accounting for additional stroke risk factors such as alcohol use, smoking, and physical activity levels, the researchers concluded that individuals with one to four symptoms had a 16% increased stroke risk compared to symptom-free individuals. Among the 19,149 people with one to four symptoms, 1,300 experienced a stroke. Out of the 6,282 symptom-free individuals, 365 had a stroke. Those with five to eight symptoms had a 51% elevated risk, with 436 strokes occurring among the 5,695 people with five to eight symptoms.

The correlation between insomnia symptoms and stroke was more pronounced in participants under age 50. Those experiencing five to eight symptoms had nearly quadruple the risk of stroke compared to symptom-free individuals. Among the 458 individuals under age 50 with five to eight symptoms, 27 suffered a stroke. Among individuals aged 50 or over with the same number of symptoms, the risk increased by 38%, with 33 out of 654 having a stroke.

“This risk disparity between the two age brackets may be attributed to a higher incidence of stroke in older individuals,” Sawadogo added. “As people age, the list of stroke risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes, can increase, making insomnia symptoms one among many potential risk factors. This marked difference suggests that handling insomnia symptoms at a younger age might be an effective approach for stroke prevention. Future studies should investigate how managing sleep problems could decrease stroke risk.”

The association was even more significant for people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and depression.

Reference: “Association Between Insomnia Symptoms and Trajectory With the Risk of Stroke in the Health and Retirement Study” by Wendemi Sawadogo, Tilahun Adera, Maha Alattar, Robert Perera and James B Burch, 7 June 2023, Neurology.
DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207449

One drawback of the study was the reliance on self-reported insomnia symptoms, which may have resulted in inaccuracies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Insomnia and Stroke Risk

What is the main finding of the study discussed in the text?

The main finding of the study is that there is an association between symptoms of insomnia and an increased risk of stroke, particularly in individuals under 50 years of age.

Who conducted the study mentioned in the text?

The study was conducted by Wendemi Sawadogo, MD, MPH, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

How many people were involved in the study?

The study involved 31,126 people with an average age of 61.

What was the duration of the study?

The participants were followed for an average duration of nine years.

Was a causal relationship established between insomnia and stroke?

No, the study does not establish a causal relationship, but rather it identifies a correlation between the symptoms of insomnia and stroke.

What does the research suggest for people struggling with sleep problems?

The research suggests that identifying which sleep problems lead to an increased stroke risk could enable earlier treatments or behavioral therapies, potentially reducing their future stroke risk.

What was a limitation of the study?

A limitation of the study was that people reported their own symptoms of insomnia, so the information may not have been entirely accurate.

More about Insomnia and Stroke Risk

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Mike45 June 24, 2023 - 10:24 am

Whoa, thats scary stuff. always had probs with sleeping but never thought it could lead to something as serious as a stroke. gonna have to look into this more.

NightOwlNick June 24, 2023 - 1:01 pm

So if I’m reading this right, my late-night Netflix binges are upping my stroke risk? Hmmm… maybe time to hit the hay earlier from now on.

SleeplessInSeattle June 24, 2023 - 5:57 pm

Really makes you think huh? All these years not sleeping right and now I find out it might up my risk of stroke. So where can we find these sleep therapies they’re talkin about??

FitAndHealthy June 25, 2023 - 4:47 am

Just goes to show, sleep is as important as diet and exercise. Its not enough to just ‘burn the midnight oil’ – gotta take care of your rest too, people.

MindfulMandy June 25, 2023 - 5:53 am

this study is an eye opener. but it’s also important to remember it doesn’t say insomnia causes strokes, just a link. still, good to be mindful of our sleep habits, right?


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