Lack of sleep may raise stroke risk

Researchers say a regular pattern of less than six hours of sleep a night may seriously derail healthy aging. An extensive study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham found one of the greatest risk factors for stroke may be not getting enough sleep.

The study looked at more than 5,600 subjects, none of whom had a history with stroke before the study or suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. The scientists followed them over the course of three years, and after adjusting for other risk factors such as obesity, found regularly not getting a good night's rest can do more than make people feel tired the next day.

"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," said lead author Mega Ruiter.

More studies need to be done to confirm the link, but Ruiter and her colleagues believe the findings will help raise awareness of the importance of sleep. Not getting enough shuteye has been tied to other maladies as well, including diabetes. According to U.S. News and World Report, people who got five or fewer hours each night were around 2.5 times more likely to have the disease.