AUSTIN, Texas -- There are alarming numbers from a new medical study that detail the correlation between stroke and the lack of sleep.
As the medical director for the Sleep Disorders Center of Central Texas, Dr. David Duhon has come across hundreds of studies involving sleep-deprivation and health-related illnesses. But he says even he's surprised to learn that the new study finds 30 percent of working adults who routinely get less than six hours of sleep a night are four times more likely to suffer a stroke.
"To see the 400-percent increase stroke risk in a relatively young population [and] these aren't elderly people, that is surprising," said Dr. Duhon.
Restricting or cutting off blood to the brain results in a stroke. Duhon says chronic sleep deprivation creates chemicals in the body that promote inflammation which can lead to blocked arteries that result in stroke or a heart attack.
"You are talking about blood clots," said Duhon. "They do that because the arteries themselves are sometimes damaged by these chemicals that are circulating in the blood. [The chemicals] are increased when the body is under stress."
More than 5,600 adults of normal height and weight with no known history of stroke, and who were not at high risk for sleep apnea, were studied over three years.
What makes these numbers even more alarming is that the National Sleep Foundation reports the number of people who get eight hours or more of sleep a night has dropped from 38 percent to 28 percent in the last decade.