American Heart Association News: People who have strokes or mini-strokes often experience a wide range of sleep disorders in the months that follow, a problem that can put them at increased risk for subsequent strokes, an analysis shows.

Sleep problems – including insomnia, troubled breathing while asleep, restless legs in the evening and unconscious leg movements – are more common among stroke survivors than the general public, according to the study published Thursday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. Researchers found sleep problems were more likely to occur among women, smokers, people with other health conditions and those who have strokes at older ages.

“When poor sleep occurs, patients may also experience cognitive deficits such as declined concentration or working memory,” said the study’s lead author, Hsiao-Yean Chiu, associate professor and deputy director of the Scho l of Nursing at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan. Because of the many heart and brain health issues associated with poor sleep, she said, doctors should perform sleep studies or exams on stroke patients and treat any sleep issues that arise.

In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 12% of those who have full-blown strokes first experience transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, also known as “mini-strokes” or “warning strokes.” These cause temporary symptoms, such as weakness, slurred speech and dizziness, that disappear within 24 hours.

Sleep problems, particularly sleep apnea – when breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the night – are considered independent risk factors for stroke. Because of the high prevalence of sleep problems among stroke survivors, the AHA recommends assessing sleep issues to prevent further strokes and TIAs.

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