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Sleep: How much is too much?

Mar 04, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Are you wondering if you get enough sleep? Do you worry that you get to bed too late? Does it concern you that you can't seem to “sleep in” even on the weekends? Don’t stress—less sleep may not be such a bad thing after all.

A study just released in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), found evidence that people who get more than eight hours of sleep a night (termed “long sleepers”) are 46 percent more likely to have a stoke that people who sleep six to eight hours per night—the acknowledged “average” amount of sleep.

Further, those who changed their sleep pattern from the average to sleeping more than eight hours a night were nearly four times as likely to have a stroke as “people who consistently slept an average amount.”

The study involved 9,692 participants, average age 62, who had never had a stroke. They were asked about their sleep habits and re-interviewed approximately four years later. In all, the subjects were followed for an average of 9.5 years. During that time, 346 people had a stroke.

Of the 986 people who slept more than eight hours a night, 52 had a stroke, compared to 211 of the 6,684 people who slept the average amount. The relationship between long sleep and stroke stayed the same even after researchers adjusted for factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, body mass index, and physical activity.

“We don't yet know whether long sleep is a cause, consequence, or early marker of ill health,” says study author Yue Leng, M.Phil., of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. “More research is needed to understand the relationship between long sleep and stroke.” (The study was supported by the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom and Cancer Research U.K.)

Even these initial results, however, once again demonstrate the importance of rhythms, routine, and consistency in our lives. Changes both small and dramatic can have a lasting impact on our health.

--Sarah Hagerty
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