(HealthDay News) – For normal-weight adults with a low risk of sleep-disordered breathing, habitually sleeping less than six hours per night is associated with an increased risk of stroke.

To investigate whether sleep duration is predictive of self-reported stroke symptoms, Megan Ruiter, MD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues conducted a cohort study involving 5,666 adults, aged >45 years, without history of stroke, transient ischemic attack, or high risk for sleep-disordered breathing. Participants reported their average sleep duration, and, at six-month intervals, self-reported stroke symptoms were collected.

In the unadjusted model, the researchers found that short sleep duration of less than six hours and long sleep duration of nine or more hours significantly predicted stroke symptoms, but after adjustment, the effect was attenuated. There was a significant interaction noted between sleep duration and body mass index (BMI) (P=0.047); short sleep duration correlated with stroke symptoms for those with normal BMI (hazard ratio, 2.93), with no correlation seen for overweight or obese individuals. In a fully-adjusted model, a sleep duration of less than six hours correlated with increased incidence of stroke symptoms for those with normal BMI (hazard ratio, 4.54).

“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,” Ruiter said in a statement. “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.”

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