Poor Sleep May Be Linked To Higher Stroke Risk

Tim Watt  |  March 1, 2016

"How well are you sleeping?" This isn't just a question you ask to make small talk - It's also a serious indicator for a variety of health issues when it comes to senior care.

The American Heart Association recently conducted research that found poor sleep in seniors can lead to complications in the brain that included conditions as severe as a stroke, said a press release about the study.

The study's findings
Researchers studied the autopsied brains of over 300 people who had once been examined after a full week of constant monitoring of their rest and activity habits. The results of these examinations found that participants who had greater sleep fragmentation were 27 percent more likely to have arteriosclerosis. These interruptions are caused by repeated awakenings that occurred at least seven times an hour, said the report. Researchers further discovered that those who woke up at least two times per every hour of sleep had a 30 percent more risk for oxygen deprivation. Twenty-nine percent of these brains had suffered from a stroke while another 61 percent showed signs of either moderate or severe damage to blood vessels in their brain.

Another way senior caregivers can monitor risk
Andrew Lim, M.D., and lead investigator of this study explained that he believes that there is still work to do regarding this research, but overall he thinks recording sleep patterns is another tool you can use to help your patients when assessing their mental health.

"However, there are several ways to view these findings: sleep fragmentation may impair the circulation of blood to the brain, poor circulation of blood to the brain may cause sleep fragmentation, or both may be caused by another underlying risk factor," Lim said in the press release.

The National Sleep Foundation found that proper elder care involves getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night in order to get a beneficial rest. It explained that change in sleep patterns can be normal as a person starts to age. Going to bed later and waking up earlier, is one such example, but if your patients are waking up throughout the night this can quickly take a toll on their body. The source suggested that a senior caregiver recommend cutting back on caffeine or taking a nap to help get a full night of sleep, but if that doesn't work you'll have to discuss a more serious game plan.

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