When it comes to sleeping, many people have a problem not getting enough sleep. Whether they’re burning the candle at both ends or have some type of sleep disorder, more than one third of American adults report not sleeping enough (at least 7 hours/day), according to the CDC. With so many people struggling to get more shut-eye, is it possible to get too much sleep?
The answer may be yes, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. The study showed that adults who reported regularly sleeping excessively at night or taking long naps were at a greater risk for stroke than those who slept less. “The amount of sleep you need varies over the course of your lifetime. It depends on your age and activity level as well as your general health and lifestyle habits,” says pulmonologist, Zeeshan Khan, MD.
Stroke risk was 23% higher in people who slept 9 hours or more a night and 25% higher in those who napped for at least 90 minutes.
While this study suggests it may be a good idea to not hit the snooze button too often, it should be noted that there’s no way to determine cause and effect when it comes to sleep duration and stroke risk. Meaning, it’s hard to say whether people who sleep longer are at an increased risk of stroke or whether people who already have a higher stroke risk tend to sleep longer. The study found an association between these factors but couldn’t determine if one caused the other.
Is sleep one of the main risk factors for stroke?
Although the amount of sleep you get regularly may have some effect on your risk of stroke, sleep is not at the top of the list when it comes to stroke risk factors. Primary risk factors for stroke include age, whether you smoke and health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
However, how much you sleep—and more importantly, the quality of your sleep—may be linked to health conditions that affect stroke risk, such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, people who tend to sleep more may have other risk factors for stroke, including being more sedentary or having sleep apnea or depression.
What should you do if you sleep a lot?
If you get a few extra hours of sleep on occasion to make up for missed sleep at other times or you sleep more when you’re sick, that’s okay. But if you routinely sleep more than 9 hours a night or nap a lot, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. “If you consistently sleep at least 7 hours but do not feel rested, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Treating sleep-related conditions can significantly improve your quality of life,” says Dr. Khan. Sleeping excessively on a regular basis may be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as heart disease, diabetes or depression. Or it may indicate you have a condition that affects sleep quality, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. A sleep study may be recommended to rule out or confirm if you have a sleep disorder.
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