Sleeping soon after dinner could raise risk of stroke

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 23rd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

After a heavy holiday feast, sometimes the only cure for an overstuffed belly is a nice long nap on the couch. It practically calls your name, enticing you to just plop down, curl up with a blanket and doze off.

But you might want to resist relaxing until you’ve digested a bit. A new study from the University of Ioannina [Ya-nena] Medical School in Greece suggests that waiting at least an hour after you eat before getting shut eye could reduce your risk of stroke by two-thirds. In fact, for every twenty minutes more that you wait, stroke risk drops another 10 percent.

In the 1,000-person study, 500 were healthy, 250 people had suffered a stroke and the other 250 had acute coronary syndrome, which can be a precursor to a heart attack. The participants were polled on their eating and sleeping habits. While the study doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, it did find that those who waited the longest to take a nap after noshing slashed their risk of stroke by up to 76 percent.

So what’s the link between sleeping too soon and stroke? Past studies have found that feasting before falling asleep can instigate heartburn, which is associated with sleep apnea — a known risk factor for stroke.

Other scientists think it has to do with the biological changes that take place when we eat. Eating alters blood sugar, cholesterol level and blood flow, all factors that could contribute to a stroke.

Along with delaying downtime after dining, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels can decrease stroke risk. Go for whole grains, nuts, salmon and beans to lower L-D-L, or “bad” cholesterol and raise H-D-L or “good” cholesterol. Take a nice long walk after eating to get metabolism moving again. After an hour or so you’ll be more than ready for a well-deserved nap. And you can rest easy knowing you’re safer from stroke.