Sufficient Sleep, Exercise May Stave Off Stroke
Between 7 and 8 hours of shut-eye each night seems to be best, research suggests
By Amy Norton
THURSDAY, Feb. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- People who regularly exercise and get a full night's sleep may have a relatively lower risk of suffering a stroke, a large study suggests.
Researchers found that among almost 300,000 U.S. adults, those who routinely slept seven to eight hours a night were 25 percent less likely to have a stroke, compared to people who got either less or more sleep.
The highest stroke risk was seen among "long sleepers," who spent at least eight hours in bed each night. But short sleepers -- those who slept less than seven hours each night -- also showed an elevated risk.
However, the findings don't prove that sufficient sleep can actually prevent strokes, only that there's a link between getting the right amount of sleep and stroke risk.
Still, the researchers said the findings do highlight the potential importance of sleep in stroke risk -- something that has not gotten much attention.
"Some of us look at sleep as the enemy. It gets in our way of doing things," said lead researcher Azizi Seixas, of the Center for Healthful Behavior Change at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
But, Seixas said, there is growing evidence that when it comes to healthy lifestyle choices, sufficient sleep is the "third pillar," along with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
The research team found that the combination of good sleep habits and regular exercise was related to a substantial drop in stroke risk.
Seixas was scheduled to present the findings Thursday at the American Stroke Association's (ASA) annual meeting, in Los Angeles. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Daniel Lackland, a spokesman for the ASA, said the study backs up the importance of exercise in maintaining good cardiovascular health -- but also reminds us that sleep matters.
"It seems like sufficient sleep and exercise may have a synergistic effect on stroke risk," said Lackland.
"If you get regular exercise, that's good -- and we've known that for a long time," he said. But there are also reasons that sleep may directly affect stroke risk, added Lackland, who's also a professor of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston.