Not getting enough sleep? It could increase your risk of stroke

Roughly 65 per cent of over-60s are suffering from some form of sleep disorder, and as a result are at
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Roughly 65 per cent of over-60s are suffering from some form of sleep disorder, and as a result are at risk of health problems.

You know that your sleep pattern changes as you get older. More often than not it becomes light and more interrupted and other factors impact your ability to get a ‘good’ night’s sleep. While poor sleep impacts on your ability to enjoy what happens during the daylight hours, it’s found that if you suffer a sleep disorder you are at a greater risk of stroke and your chances of recovery from the condition are diminished.

Dr Dirk Hermann of the University Hospital Essen, Germany, and his colleagues conducted an analysis of 29 studies that assess how sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea might be associated with stroke and stroke recovery.

What they found was that the studies involves more than 2,000 patients who had experienced stroke, including mini-stroke. The researchers think that if you have a more severe sleep apnoea you might suffer more severe strokes.

Hermann considered that stroke patients should be diagnosed for a sleep disorder and provided with treatment, but it is not clear if treating sleep problems would lower your risk of stroke.

“Sleep is important for the ability of the neurons [brain cells] to connect, and after a stroke, these neurons have to reconnect to compensate for the lost function,” Dr Hermann says.

He says he does not believe sleep medications would be the most effective way of dealing with sleep problems. Instead, Hermann suggestions that sleep disturbances should be considered seriously and if you are suffering from a sleep issue you should consider seeing a sleep specialist.

Although there is no simple answer to the questions ‘what is ‘normal’ sleep’ in the over-60s it is still thought you get between seven and nine hours each day — not all of that occurs at night. You might find that you nod off for 20 or 30 minutes while watching the television or reading a book and this contributes to your total sleep needs. It’s also common for you to struggle to fall asleep, with at least one third or women and one sixth of men reporting that it takes them longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep. That said, you are also more likely to wake up during the night, thanks in part to that ageing bladder. These are not to be too concerned about.

Sleep apnoea and period limb movement is more common if you are in your 60s and older, said to affect up to 25 per cent of people, while insomnia affects 40 per cent of you.

Do you suffer from a sleep disorder? What treatment/s have you received to assist in managing the condition?

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