Too Much, Too Little Sleep Increases Ischemic Risk In Postmenopausal Women

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2008-07-18 10:09

Postmenopausal women who regularly sleep more than nine hours a night may have an increased risk of ischemic stroke, researchers reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Compared to women sleeping seven hours, the risk of ischemic stroke was 60-70 percent higher for those sleeping nine hours or more, said lead author Jiu-Chiuan Chen, M.D., Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health in Chapel Hill.

“After accounting for all common clinical conditions predictive of stroke, we found this increase was statistically significant: sleeping nine hours or more is strongly associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke,” he said.

Researchers also found that women who slept six hours or less were at 14 percent greater stroke risk than those who slept seven hours a night. Nearly twice as many women reported sleeping less than six hours (8.3 percent) than those who reported sleeping nine hours or more (4.6 percent).

“The prevalence in women of having long sleep duration is much lower than having sleep duration less than six hours. So the overall public health impact of short sleep is probably larger than long sleep,” Chen said. “This study provides additional evidence that habitual sleep patterns in postmenopausal women could be important for determining the risk of ischemic stroke.”

The findings apply only to postmenopausal women and cannot be applied to other groups, including men and younger women. Postmenopausal women 50- to 79-years-old may be more susceptible to the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation than others.

“Our study population is a very specific group, and the duration of sleep needed for optimal health probably differs for various population groups,” he said. “People who feel that their sleep problems are a burden to their daytime activities are encouraged to discuss their concerns with physicians who can better interpret their significance and offer advice in the context of their overall health.”

Three large previous studies have addressed the role of sleep duration in coronary artery disease and/or stroke. They yielded mixed results and didn’t account for the many factors that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, including: age, race, socioeconomic factors such as family income and employment, smoking, depression, exercise, hormone therapy in postmenopausal women, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea.

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