Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stroke Study

Image by DartVader

A study was recently completed which looked at the length of time that postmenopausal women slept each night and it's relationship to strokes. The study concluded that women who sleep nine or more hours each night were at a whopping 60 to 70% higher risk of strokes than those who got seven hours of sleep per night. Those who slept six hours or less were also at an increased stroke risk.

"Whether it's because of sleep apnea or because of restless sleep or because of any number of things, we don't know," Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, one of the researchers, said in a telephone interview.

"The study definitely does not say that for women who sleep longer, if they decrease their hours of sleep they'll be better off," Wassertheil-Smoller, an epidemiologist, added. (Emphasis mine)

The researchers said it is unclear whether the findings would apply to men and younger women.

The study, which ran from 1994 to 2005, also saw an increased stroke risk among women who got no more than six hours of sleep a night.

I am intrigued by this study, which had 93,000 participants, ran from 1994 until 2005, and factored in other stroke risks. Those of us who deal with Sjogren's and other autoimmune disorders that have associated fatigue issues are always aware of our need for restful sleep. I am one of those who routinely get nine hours of shut-eye each night.

I can't help but feel somewhat skeptical about the results of this study. There remains a great deal to continue to evalute before it can be stated with certainty that 9+ hours of sleep per night = increased stroke risk. 

It would seem that the variables associated with sleep and length of sleep are enormous. Did the researchers quantify sleep quality? Those who sleep fitfully for nine hours may actually experience fewer REM cycles than those who sleep soundly for seven hours. Many medication and herbal supplements can have a direct effect on length and quality of sleep. Were the participants exercising before bedtime? Did they sleep with a partner, who may or may not have sleep difficulties? Did they eat before bedtime? Did all participants sleep in a similar temperature and noise environment? 

I am left wondering what this information means for me. Is it better for me to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night and nap during the day if I'm still tired? Would it really be better to drag myself out of bed during a flare and ignore my bone crunching fatigue?

I think that I will simply tuck this information away somewhere in my goofy brain, and continue to be aware of the messages that my body sends me. I shall sleep as many hours as I need. 

So there. 

No comments: