Sleep Disturbances Linked to Higher Stroke Risk

We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for our well-being, but the importance of sleep goes far beyond feeling refreshed.

A recent international study has found a compelling connection between various sleep disturbances and the risk of acute stroke.


The INTERSTROKE study is an international case-control study that investigated the relationship between sleep disturbances and the risk of experiencing an acute stroke. The research included 4,496 matched participants, with some having experienced ischemic strokes or intracerebral hemorrhages.

The study identified several sleep-related issues that were significantly associated with an increased risk of stroke. These include:

  • Short sleep (less than 5 hours)
  • Long sleep (more than 9 hours)
  • Impaired sleep quality
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Unplanned napping
  • Prolonged napping (more than 1 hour)
  • Snoring
  • Snorting
  • Breathing cessation

Additionally, the study found that participants with higher Obstructive Sleep Apnea scores, which indicate more severe sleep apnea symptoms, and those experiencing multiple sleep disturbances had a significantly increased risk of acute stroke.

The Impact of Sleep on Stroke Risk

While previous research has hinted at the connection between sleep and stroke, the INTERSTROKE study provides robust evidence of the association.

Although it is not entirely clear why sleep issues increase stroke risk, several key factors are believed to be involved.

One possibility is that sleep disturbances disrupt the natural processes of the body that protect the brain. For example, during deep sleep, the brain clears waste products, and cerebrovascular health is maintained. Poor sleep quality may impede these processes, making the brain more vulnerable to damage.

Another potential factor is the role of inflammation. Sleep disturbances have been linked to increased inflammation, which can contribute to the development of stroke and other health issues. By resolving sleep problems, we may be able to lower inflammation levels and reduce stroke risk.

Moreover, sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea, can cause fluctuations in blood pressure and reduced oxygen levels in the blood. These changes can strain the cardiovascular system, making it more susceptible to stroke and other heart-related issues.

Improving Sleep Quality to Protect Your Brain

Given the potential impact of sleep disturbances on stroke risk, it’s essential to prioritize sleep quality for better brain health. Here are some practical tips to help you improve your sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and try to maintain consistent bedtimes and wake times, even on weekends.
    Create a sleep-friendly environment: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Engage in relaxing activities before bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing meditation.
  • Limit screen time before bed: The light emitted from screens can interfere with your sleep, so turn off devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Improve your diet and exercise habits: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime, and try to engage in regular physical activity during the day.
  • Manage stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Incorporate stress-reducing practices like mindfulness, creative art, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

The INTERSTROKE study has shed new light on the importance of good sleep for stroke prevention.

By addressing sleep disturbances and making sleep a priority, we can not only enjoy more restful nights but also potentially reduce our risk of stroke and other health complications.