It’s possible that poor sleep increases the risk for stroke in seniors as well as a hardening of the arteries in the brain or oxygen deprivation. Sleep quality has been thoroughly researched by scientists, and it seems that it holds great significance to our health. That is the cause throughout the length of our lives.
Researchers at the Canadian Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center conducted a study on the brains of 315 people, at the average age of 90 years old. Before their death, each of the participants underwent at least one full week of sleep monitoring. The quality of their sleep was assessed, and, on average, those examined woke up around 7 times an hour. That means that the participants had fragmented sleep, prompted by frequent awakenings or arousal.
In the past, the issue was linked to dementia and cognitive decline. However, according to lead author of the study, Dr. Andrew Lim, there were certain gaps between the association of fragmented sleep and brain problems.
Among the participants, 29% of them had died due to a stroke, and 61% had moderate to severe damage done to the blood vessels within the brain. According to their findings, with each two sudden awakenings or arousals per hour, the chances of brain oxygen deprivation increased by 30%. The more often they woke up during sleep, the greater the impact on their health.
Dr. Lim stated that the problem not only enhanced the risk of such issues, but also encouraged chronic progressive cognitive impairment and motor problems. They found that those who had fragmented sleep were 27% more likely to have hardened arteries than those who slept without an interruption. They were also 31% more likely to suffer from oxygen deprivation in the brain, which causes neural tissue damage.
However, the study was not focused on finding a cause-and-effect type of relationship. The team of researchers did not take other factors into consideration, such as weight, diabetes, smoking, or other health conditions that might’ve caused a stroke. What they found was only an association between cognitive impairment, brain problems, and fragmented sleep.
That essentially means that sleep fragmentation could increase the risk of stroke by impairing the circulation of blood to the brain. Or, the faulty circulation of the blood to the brain may cause sleep fragmentation. Or, the third possibility, there is an underlying cause that leads to both issues in senior citizens. It’s unclear yet what sort of mechanism explains such a link, so more research is required.
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