Older People Sleeping Less Than Six Hours See Stroke Risk Increase
Second study finds some with sleep problems are just afraid of the dark; both studies presented today at SLEEP 2012
June 11, 2012 – Older people who regularly sleep less than six hours a night significantly increase their risk of stroke
symptoms, according to new research. The three-year study involved 5,666 adults of normal weight with a low risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
The participants had no history of stroke, transient ischemic attack, stroke symptoms or high risk for OSA at the start
of the study, which is being presented today at SLEEP 2012.
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recorded the first stroke symptoms, along with demographic
information, stroke risk factors, depression symptoms and various health behaviors.
After adjusting for body-mass index (BMI), they found a strong association between daily sleep periods of less than six
hours and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults, even beyond other risk factors.
Interestingly, the study found no association between short sleep periods and stroke symptoms among overweight and obese
"In employed middle-aged to older adults, relatively free of major risk factors for stroke such as obesity and
sleep-disordered breathing, short sleep duration may exact its own negative influence on stroke development," said lead author Megan Ruiter,
"We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors, and once these
traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone."
Further research may support the results, providing a strong argument for increasing physician and public awareness of
the impact of sleep as a risk factor for stroke symptoms, especially among persons who appear to have few or no traditional risk factors for
stroke, she said.
"Sleep and sleep-related behaviors are highly modifiable with cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches and/or
pharmaceutical interventions," Ruiter said. "These results may serve as a preliminary basis for using sleep treatments to prevent the
development of stroke."
Ruiter and colleagues collected their data as part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke
(REGARDS) study, led by George Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. REGARDS enrolled 30,239 people
ages 45 and older between January 2003 and October 2007, and is continuing to follow them for health changes.
The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The abstract "Short sleep predicts stroke symptoms in persons of normal weight" is being presented today at SLEEP 2012,
the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Boston.
A joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the annual SLEEP meeting brings
together an international body of more than 5,500 leading clinicians and scientists in the fields of sleep medicine and sleep research.
Some Adults with Sleep Problems are Actually Afraid of the Dark
Researchers wonder how many actually have an active and untreated phobia
June 11, 2012 - A small study of Toronto college students is shedding light on a contributing factor of insomnia that
might be hard to admit – an adult fear of the dark. Nearly half of the study participants who reported having poor sleep also reported a fear
of the dark.
Researchers confirmed this objectively by measuring blink responses to sudden noise bursts in light and dark
surroundings. Good sleepers became accustomed to the noise bursts but the poor sleepers grew more anticipatory when the lights were down.
"The poor sleepers were more easily startled in the dark compared with the good sleepers," said Taryn Moss, the study's
lead author. "As treatment providers, we assume that poor sleepers become tense when the lights go out because they associate the bed with
being unable to sleep. Now we're wondering how many people actually have an active and untreated phobia."
Colleen Carney, PhD, the principal investigator, said insomnia treatments are highly effective but not everyone responds
or completely recovers. New approaches may be warranted. For example, the most effective insomnia treatments encourage people to leave the
dark bedroom and go into another, lit room; however, this would not be a way to treat a dark-related phobia.
"We may need to add treatment components for these patients and adapt existing treatment components in light of the
phobia," Carney said. "A lot more research is needed, but we believe we have stumbled across an unmet treatment need for some poor sleepers."
The abstract "Are people with insomnia afraid of the dark? A pilot study" from Ryerson University Sleep & Depression Lab
is being presented today at SLEEP 2012, the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Boston.
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