Too Much Sleep Increases Stroke Risk

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Young woman sleeping in bed, could she be getting too much sleep?Recent research suggests there might be a connection between abnormal sleep and the risk of stroke. A study was led by Yue Leng as well as his colleagues from the University of Cambridge located in the United Kingdom. They observed 9,692 individuals of both genders from forty-two to eighty-one years of age. These participants were, over the course of nine and a half years, enrolled in the Norfolk Cohort study called the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC). The study was published in the journal Neurology.

The study lasted nearly a decade. During this time, 346 subjects had some kind of a stroke, whether fatal or non-fatal. Confounding factors were considered, such as sex and age, before a conclusion was established. It was discovered that those individuals who slept for more than eight hours every day had an increased risk of stroke of forty-six percent higher than the average person.

In addition to this, those participants who admitted to sleeping longer than eight hours when asked at both periods in the study held an even higher risk. In fact, these individuals had double the chances of having a stroke when compared to the individuals who slept a consistent quantity of six to eight hours a day.

One of the worst categories involved those whose sleeping habits increased over the course of the four years. Their risk was about four times more than those who simply had average and consistent sleep duration. It was also found that individuals who slept less than six hours every day also had an increased risk of stroke by eighteen percent, but because the number is so small this category was not thought to be relevant. Ultimately, too much sleep appears to increase stroke risk.

According to Yue Leng, the evidence is strong. He states that there is a clear link between a sleeping longer than six to eight hours and a greater risk of stroke. This is confirmed from his study along with participants from many other international studies and additional data. What isn’t known at this point is the direction of this connection. It isn’t understood whether longer sleep duration is somehow a cause of cardiovascular issues, or whether it is simply a symptom which can be used as an early marker.

Researchers in these studies admit that it is still unclear why there is an association between stroke risk and sleep – it is not understood why that relationship exists. Lack of sleep has been linked to a number of other conditions and factors. Some of these factors include raised levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and a disrupted metabolism.

Many of these various elements could subsequently lead to higher blood pressure, which could, in turn, lead to increased stroke risk.

Blood Pressure and Stroke Risk from Too Much Sleep

Closeup of health professional using blood pressure cuff for measurement, indicating a problem with blood pressure that may result from too much sleepStrokes occur when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted because of narrow or clogged arteries; this is known as an ischemic stroke. In some cases, strokes are due to blood vessels rupturing; this is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. High blood pressure commonly damages arteries in the body. These damaged or weakened arteries significantly increase the risk an individual has for stroke. Arteries have a higher chance of rupturing when they have been weakened from high blood pressure.

This issue can increase a person’s risk for stroke by four to six times. High blood pressure is directly connected to the exact risk of stroke. This relationship is fairly uncomplicated and easy to understand. Of course, high blood pressure creates other problems within the human body too. If high blood pressure is left unmanaged, it may result in memory loss, fluid in the lungs, vision loss, kidney damage, angina and other issues.

Blood Pressure and Adrenal Fatigue

Many different things may cause high blood pressure, including genetics, stress, old age, obesity, too much salt intake, smoking and a lack of physical activity, among other possible causes. Adrenal fatigue is also strongly linked with high and low blood pressure. Initially, in the early and milder stages of adrenal fatigue, individuals may experience blood pressure levels which are elevated.

However, as adrenal fatigue becomes more severe, it is extremely common for individuals to experience low blood pressure. Adrenal fatigue and blood pressure are also both triggered by stress, in many situations, and this is likely why many people who experience high blood pressure also have adrenal fatigue. When the body is under stress, it releases chemicals which trigger blood pressure levels to rise.

Compensatory responses bring blood pressure back down to normal, but if these responses are compromised it can lead to consistently high blood pressure. When the adrenal glands become exhausted the body is not regulated as it should, and hormones responsible for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels such as aldosterone become compromised. This can lead to a shift towards low blood pressure. Blood pressure which is too low can lead to dizziness and fainting. In this type of situation, it can be difficult to perform even the simplest tasks.

Some people with adrenal fatigue suggest using salt as a means to raise blood pressure and avoid some of these potential issues. Heavily salting foods is another way to help with this dilemma. In fact, salt may be able to help the adrenal glands to heal and a body with healthier adrenal glands might begin to feel nauseated after consuming too much salt, especially with water. This is, of course, a good sign, though. Other herbs and possibly medication may be necessary if the issue becomes too severe. Licorice root is suggested for low blood pressure, but it should be taken in moderation and under the supervision of an experienced clinician. Those in advanced stages of adrenal fatigue need to be very careful.

Ultimately both high and low blood pressure can have adverse effects in the body. They are dealt with very differently, obviously. The key is to understand why a person is experiencing either high blood pressure or low blood pressure so that they can begin to proactively attack the core problem. If the issue is stress, diet, or the adrenal glands, different measures can be taken in order to achieve normal, healthy blood pressure levels.

Dr. Lam’s Adrenal Fatigue Perspective

Straight on view of an orange half with half the pulp replaced with supplement capsules, indicating Vitamin C may help counteract the effects of too much sleepIf you are in adrenal fatigue and sleeping more than six to eight hours a night, then this study may apply to you. It is best then to make sure that your blood vessels are healthy and your blood pressure is normal to counteract the possible risks of increased sleep. Good supplements to take to ensure healthy blood vessels include Vitamin C, which is also beneficial for the adrenals. Other beneficial supplements may include alpha-lipoic acid and garlic. Omega-3 fatty acids and Magnesium are good ways to help normalize your blood pressure and are gentle on the body as well. It is important that you consult an experienced clinician before taking these supplements, as in advanced cases, paradoxical reactions may occur and can actually worsen the situation.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Closeup of health professional using blood pressure cuff for measurement, indicating a problem with blood pressure that may result from too much sleep