Researchers examined autopsied brains of 315 people (average age 90, 70 percent women) who had undergone at least one full week of around-the-clock monitoring for rest or activity, from which sleep quality and circadian rhythms were measured. 29 percent of the patients had suffered a stroke, while 61 percent had signs of moderate to severe damage to their blood vessels in the brain.
Researchers found that greater sleep fragmentation was associated with 27 percent higher likelihood of having severe arteriosclerosis. Moreover, for each additional two arousals during one hour of sleep, researchers reported a 30 percent increase in the odds that subjects had visible signs of oxygen deprivation in their brain.
Findings were independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as body mass, smoking history, diabetes, and hypertension, or other medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, pain, depression or heart failure, researchers said.
Lim AS, Yu L, Schneider JA, Bennett DA, Buchman AS. Sleep Fragmentation, Cerebral Arteriolosclerosis, and Brain Infarct Pathology in Community-Dwelling Older People. Stroke. 2016 Jan 14. pii: STROKEAHA.115.011608. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26768207.