People under the age of 35 with insomnia are eight times more likely to suffer a stroke. Are your sleep habits putting you at risk for this deadly problem?
The link between the staying up all night and stroke isn’t completely clear, but other findings show that insomnia can alter cardiovascular health through systematic inflammation, impaired glucose tolerance–a precursor to type-2 diabetes–or increased blood pressure, which are all possible reasons for this heightened risk. (Take the quiz to see if you’re at risk for one of the top 5 man killers.)
Sleep disturbance has always been a risk factor for stroke, but don’t jump to conclusions too quickly. “Many people will describe a host of sleep problems as ‘insomnia.'” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., a Men’s Health sleep expert. Often, patients’ unfamiliarity with what constitutes insomnia can lead to misinterpretation and unnecessary anxiety, says Winter. In other words, many people tend to generalize their inability to sleep by thinking it’s insomnia, when in reality there are plenty of other sleep-related issues you could be enduring, like sleep apnea, which has more pressing health dangers than stroke risk.
It doesn’t mean you can’t try killing two birds with one stone, though. It’s known that regular exercise can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke at an older age. However, research also suggests that exercise is effective in treating chronic insomnia, working as a mechanism that helps reduce anxiety and raise serotonin levels. A moderate level of exercise in the early afternoon might be just what you need to help tuck you in at night. (Need more help? Try these 6 better sleep strategies.)