Doctor’s Advice on Reducing Your Risk of Stroke: Good Sleep

Vascular surgeon Dr. David H. Stone of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center—also a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery—offers some critical advice to adults who are concerned with their risk of stroke: poor sleep is one factor that can lead to stroke.

“Research says less than six hours a night increases the risk of stroke symptoms four-fold among middle-age to older adults who had a normal weight and low risk for obstructive sleep apnea,” Stone explained. “Lack of sleep increases inflammation, blood pressure and the release of certain hormones, which create a greater stress response that increases stroke risk.”

Stone suggests the following sleep aids for better rest:

• Use a comfortable, firm bed to get maximum spine and body support as well as ease of movement. For people managing chronic pain, consider a heated waterbed, airbed or foam mattress, an electric blanket or a mattress pad on low heat or a wool mattress pad that provides heat. All options are especially useful for cool or damp nights.

• Remember that temperatures above 75 degrees or lower than 54 can disrupt sleep. Researchers suggest cooler instead of hotter rooms. If necessary, use a vaporizer or humidifier, since moist heat generally leads to better sleep. Clear space around the bed, put only necessary items on a nightstand.

• Refrain from consuming stimulants like cigarettes, diet pills and caffeine.

• Avoid electronic devices at least one hour before bed because they tend to disrupt sleep rhythms.

• Avoid diuretics before you go to sleep. Unless told by a physician to increase fluids, reduce their intake prior to falling asleep. Also, try not to eat right before bedtime, but a glass of milk is fine.

• To wind down, read a chapter from a book, or take a warm bath. To fall asleep, try distraction techniques like counting backwards or relaxation tapes.

• Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Afternoon naps are acceptable, but avoid napping after dinner.

• Enjoy sunny days by spending time outdoors to regulate your body’s internal clock. If possible, exercise at the same time during the day (not before bed!).

• Reset your sleep clock. Go to bed an hour earlier or later each day until you reach the hour you want to go to sleep.

To learn more about your vascular health, visit the Society for Vascular Surgery’s website at www.VascularWeb.org.

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