To all those people who brag about how much sleep they get – you shouldn’t be too smug.
Having nine hours of sleep a night, regular lie-ins, and naps are all linked to an increased risk of stroke of up to 85%, new research shows.
So yes, there is such thing as too much sleep.
Researchers from China asked 31,750 healthy Chinese adults, with an average age of 61.7 years, about their sleep and nap habits.
Over the course of six years, there were 1,438 definite and 119 probable stroke cases among those asked, and those who said they slept nine or more hours a night were 23% more likely to go on to have a stroke than those who slept less than eight hours per night.
Those who reported regular naps of longer than 90 minutes were 25% more likely to later have a stroke than people who napped for under half an hour.
And people who both slept for nine or more hours a night and had lengthy naps were 85% more likely to later have a stroke than people who were moderate sleepers and nappers.
Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean that long periods of sleep causes strokes.
If someone is regularly sleeping for nine hours or more a night and still feels the need to have a two-hour nap during the day, that could be a sign that something else is going on – we’re all tired, but that level of exhaustion doesn’t sound great.
It’s also possible that those who are sleeping for more than ten hours a day are less likely to be exercising or doing other healthy habits – after all, they’d have less time awake to get anything done.
Sleep quality also has an effect, with those who slept for nine hours or more a night but also had disrupted snoozing 82% more likely to later have a stroke.
Study author Xiaomin Zhang, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, said: ‘More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavourable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke.
‘In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke.’
Don’t descend into a spiral of panic just because you get plenty of sleep, though. If you’re concerned about the sleep you’re getting – whether it’s too much, too little, or heavily disrupted, chat to your GP to make sure nothing’s wrong.
Barbara Kobson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘We know how long and well we sleep can have an effect on our heart and circulatory health. This study suggests that sleeping for a longer time, getting sleep of poor quality, or taking long midday naps could be associated with an increased risk of stroke.
‘Although this is an interesting study it was carried out among middle-age and older Chinese adults, so we can’t be sure that these findings are relevant to people in the UK. Further research would therefore be needed to confirm the findings of this study.”
‘The important message here is that if you are concerned about your sleep pattern, the length of time you spend sleeping during the day, or are worried about the quality of your sleep, it would be worth speaking to your GP.’
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