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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 16:10 GMT
Sleep and snoring can cause stroke
Brain image
Stroke damages the brain tissue
Too much sleep and snoring could put you at an increased risk of stroke, warn scientists.

American researchers from the University of Buffalo, New York, have found that sleeping more than eight hours a night, snoring or being drowsy during the day can damage your health.

Now they are looking to see whether sleep patterns have any impact on other diseases.

Experts say this means snoring and sleep disorders will now have to be treated more seriously.

Individuals who snore severely or have trouble staying awake during the day should see a doctor to find out why

Professor Adnan Qureshi, University of Buffalo

Dr David Smithard, Consultant in Stroke Medicine at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, said the American data confirmed what they knew of the links between snoring and stroke.

Snoring increases risk

"We have been aware for some time that snoring is an increased risk of stroke and could double the risk.

"I am not surprised, but it is nice to see that someone is taking it seriously.

"But the question is what can we do about it. We will probably have to take snoring and sleep apnoea much more seriously and that does have a resource implication," he said.

The results from the Western New York Stroke Screening Study, presented at the American Stroke Association's 26th International Stroke Conference showed that those who regularly slept more than eight hours a night had a 9% higher risk of stroke than those who slept less.

Those who were sleepy during the day showed a 10% increase compared to others.

Visit doctor

Adnan Qureshi, assistant professor of neurosurgery affiliated with the University of Buffalo's Toshiba Stroke Research Centre and the lead author on the study, said people who have difficulty keeping awake should be going to their doctor.

"We found that certain sleep characteristics - such as sleeping for more than eight hours, the tendency to fall asleep during the day and the tendency to snore - influence the likelihood of having a stroke.

"Individuals who snore severely or have trouble staying awake during the day should see a doctor to find out why.

"These may be signs of sleep apnoea, which is associated with an increased risk of having a stroke," he said.

Sleep apnoea is a condition in which breathing stops briefly and repeatedly during sleep. This often causes snoring and frequent awakening as the sleeper quickly gasps for breath - this can lead to drowsiness during the day.

Sleep apnoea has been linked to heart disease and to stroke.

Professor Qureshi and his colleagues surveyed the sleeping patterns of 1,348 adults who had taken part in a stroke screening programme in Buffalo.

Among those who reported experiencing day time drowsiness 14% suffered a stroke compared to 4% of those who remained alert during the day, even after classic risk factors which could lead to stroke were ruled out.

The Stroke Association said they had found the study "fascinating" and called for more research.

"It will be necessary to do a lot more research into this subject as there have been too few studies in this area so far.

"We know that there is a connection between stroke and sleep apnoea - oxygen levels drop during sleep apnoea which can increase the risk of stroke.

"Anyone who is concerned about their snoring or sleeping patterns should talk to their GP," she said.

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