While countless studies have explored both the physical and mental health risks associated with sleep deprivation, a new study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology has discovered a risk associated with getting too much sleep.
The researchers found that those who are sleeping nine or more hours per night or taking long naps during the day could be at an increased risk of having a stroke.
“More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavorable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumference, both of which are risk factors for stroke,” said researcher Dr. Xiaomin Zhang. “In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke.”
The risks of oversleeping
The researchers had over 31,000 people involved in the study, none of whom had any serious health concerns or had previously had a stroke when the study began.
In addition to having health assessments over the course of the six-year study, the participants also reported on their typical sleeping and napping habits so the researchers could determine what effect, if any, oversleeping had on stroke risk.
The researchers ultimately found several ways that sleep was associated with increasing the participants’ risk of stroke, as both too much sleep and a poor nights’ sleep were symptoms of an increased stroke risk.
The study revealed that participants who routinely reported having trouble sleeping through the night were about 30 percent more likely to have a stroke, whereas those who regularly took long naps increased their stroke risk by as much as 85 percent.
This could come as a surprise to many consumers, as napping has been associated with improved health outcomes, but the researchers warn against overdoing it. They advise consumers to limit the duration of such daytime snoozes.
Unhealthy amounts of sleep
The researchers discovered that nine or more hours of sleep per night was the benchmark associated with the highest risk, as participants who hit or exceeded the nine-hour threshold each night increased their risk of stroke by over 20 percent.
While the researchers want to emphasize that this was an association between sleep and stroke that they observed, they don’t want consumers to overcorrect their behavior and get too little sleep. Moderation is key, they say, because sleep also contributes to countless health benefits.