You may already be aware of the importance of sleep, but did you know that even small shifts in your circadian rhythm can negatively affect your health? In light of this past weekend’s time shift, let’s take a look at the effect of sleep on your body and your risk of stroke.
As overnight employees and swing shift workers know all too well, the body’s circadian rhythm plays an important role in our health and well-being. When sleep is irregular or inadequate your body is put under stress. This increases the risk of certain health conditions including heart attack and stroke. This widely accepted risk factor led researchers to study the effect of daylight savings time (DST) on stroke risk and it was found that overall stroke risk increases by 8% in the two days following DST. For adults over 65, the risk of stroke was found to increase by 20% due to the time change. This small schedule shift may not be noticeable for shift workers who are used to the frequent changes in sleep, however it may have a much greater effect on those who keep a strict sleep regimen.
Sleep affects your stroke risk in the long run as well. Sleep plays a role in healing and repair of the body: specifically the heart and blood vessels. For this reason insufficient sleep has been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Sleep also affects the release of hormones that make you feel hungry and affects the way our bodies use insulin. This causes blood sugar levels to increase. Therefore, when you are sleep deprived, the hunger hormone levels increase which makes you eat more even though your blood glucose is already higher from insulin resistance. The result is comparable to a pre-diabetic state! This as you can imagine increases the risk of developing both obesity and diabetes (which further increase the risk of stroke).
So I’m sure you get it, we need sleep. But how much is enough? Research found that out of 300,000 Americans who reported seven to eight hours of sleep per night were 25% less likely to have a stroke. But before you get too excited, the same research showed those that slept more than eight hours had the highest stroke risk. So I suppose it takes more of a Goldilocks method to maximize the reduction in stroke risk you get from sleeping.
Not only does adequate sleep reduce your risk of stroke, but it also improves your mood, your decision making skills and your memory. So make it this week’s goal to get a little more exercise and the proper amount of sleep to make a surprisingly big difference in your health and well-being.
Links to full articles used for this week’s blog: