Lying in, long midday naps and disrupted sleep are all linked to an increased risk of stroke of up to 85 per cent, research shows.


People who sleep more than nine hours at night or who regularly nap for longer than 90 minutes are up to a quarter more likely to have a stroke than those who get less shut-eye. Researchers from China also found that people who reported poor quality of sleep were 29 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who felt they had slept well.

They asked 31,750 healthy Chinese adults, with an average age of 61.7 years, about their sleep and nap habits. There were 1,438 definite and 119 probable stroke cases during an average follow up period of six years.

Those who said they had slept nine or more hours a night were 23 per cent more likely to go on to have a stroke than people who slept seven to less than eight hours per night. Regular daytime nappers who slept for more than 90 minutes were 25 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who napped for under half an hour.

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People who were both long nappers and long sleepers were 85 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who were moderate sleepers and nappers. And those who were long sleepers who also had poor sleep quality were 82 per cent more likely to later have a stroke.

Study author Xiaomin Zhang, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, said: “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 unfavourable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke.

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“In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke.”

Around 100,000 strokes occur each year in the UK.


The study is published in the journal Neurology.

Reader Q&A: I wake up at 4am every morning and can’t get back to sleep. What can I do to fall asleep again?

Early morning waking without the ability to return to sleep can be a symptom of insomnia. The recommended treatment here is usually ‘cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia’ (CBT-I), in which people learn that, when unable to sleep, you should get out of bed and, if possible, do something relaxing such as reading or listening to soothing music until you feel sleepy again.

Relaxation techniques, including mindfulness and muscle relaxation, can be incorporated too.

Some people wake up early for different reasons, though, such as a condition known as ‘advanced sleep phase disorder’. It’s important to discuss any sleep concerns with a healthcare provider before making a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.