'Fragmented sleep' can lead to stroke - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

'Fragmented sleep' can lead to stroke

Each time you get up at night could put you at higher risk. (Source: WAFF) Each time you get up at night could put you at higher risk. (Source: WAFF)

Elderly people who sleep poorly have a greater chance of hardened blood vessels, oxygen starved tissue in the brain, stroke and brain impairment.

According to a University of Toronto study, autopsy results of 315 people who had undergone at least one full week of round-the-clock monitoring found 29 percent of the patients suffered a stroke. 61 percent had signs of damage to blood vessels in the brain.

Dr. Jitesh Kar is a neurologist at Huntsville Hospital who says we need to pay attention to the findings.

"8 million people have sleep disorders," Kar said. "Every second, four Americans are having stroke, so it's a huge problem."

For each additional two arousals during one hour of sleep, researchers reported a 30 percent increase in the odds that subjects had visible signs of oxygen deprivation in their brain.  

Dr. Kar says it's a one of a kind study.

"And this is one study where the brain was studied at the microscopic level," said Kar.

The findings suggest that sleep monitoring may potentially be another way to identify seniors who may be at risk of stroke, but further work is needed to clarify.

"It's important for us to understand to have a good sleep hygiene as well as to have a good sleep pattern. Elderly patients in our community with an increased fragmented sleep or increase sleep arousing in the middle of the night," said Kar.

Kar also said that every sleep arousal increases the risk of having the hardening of the arteries and stroke.

Hardening of the arteries deprives the brain of oxygen, increasing the risk of stroke, cognitive limitations and motor deficits. If you think you are symptomatic, Kar suggests you seek the counsel of a sleep specialist, a neurologist, as well as your primary physician.

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