Study: Too little sleep can put older people at risk for stroke


by CBS News

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 11:15 AM

A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds getting too little sleep can put older and middle-aged people at risk for stroke.

Dale Beck wakes up extra early so he can get to the gym. That means he’s only sleeping five or six hours a night.

"Getting up early and working out has helped me keep that zest going throughout the day," said Beck, Sports Information Director at L.A. Valley College.

But a new study shows people over 45 who regularly sleep less than six hours are at higher risk for developing stroke symptoms. Those can include a sudden numbness in the body or a loss of vision.

"We live in such a 24 hour culture and the emphasis is on improving your diet, getting more exercise but we also forget the last thing which is get some good sleep as well," said Megan Ruiter, an author of the study from University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The study’s designers were surprised to find that people in their group did not have the usual risk factors for stroke. Their weight was normal, and they were at low risk for sleep apnea.

Researchers are planning to watch the study group for another five years. They want to see if participants go beyond the early symptoms and suffer actual strokes.

"If that’s the case then we can target the sleep through modifying quality and duration of sleep," said Ruiter.

Dale Beck says for now, he values his workouts more than the sleep he’s losing.

"Makes me think about it but on the other hand if I don’t get my exercise then I’m at higher risk for something else," said Beck.

Researchers say it’s healthier to get seven or eight hours a night. If you’re having trouble getting that sleep, ask your doctor for help.