I have been worrying lately from lack of sleep. I seem to average less than four hours a night and I feel I need at least six to muster enough energy to cope with my daily responsibilities. Now I am surprised to read that men who sleep for a long time may be in far greater danger of having a stroke, according to a research study.

It found white men who habitually spend more than 9 hours a night asleep have a 70% higher risk. However, the effect was not found in black men, or women, who had a long night’s sleep. The US researchers said further studies were needed to explain the difference.

They followed more than 16,000 people with an average age of 64 for around six years, during which 460 of them suffered a stroke. They also found black men who slept less than 6 hours a night were 80% less likely to later have a stroke, compared with black men who were average sleepers.

This ‘protection’ for short sleepers was not present for white men and women of either race. Dr Virginia Howard, co-author of the study from the University of Alabama, said: ‘More research is needed to determine the mechanisms behind these relationships. In the meantime, this emphasizes how important it is to better monitor and control cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged to older people who have long sleep periods.’

The authors, writing in the journal Neurology said: ‘Long sleep duration may be contributing to an overall sedentary lifestyle through greater time spent in bed and less energy expenditure. It may also be a sign of often health problems or cause inflammation that could contribute to a stroke.’

Dr Howard said, ‘The result suggests short and long sleep durations may have different consequences depending on race and sex.’ Dr Megan Petrov, who led the study, said: ‘There is evidence suggesting men and women get different average amounts of sleep for various behavioural, cultural and environmental reasons. Those differences in sleep amounts combined to psychological differences between men and women such as in hormone levels, may increase risks for a stroke.’

Reading all this does not give me the comfort I’m seeking for sleeping insufficient hours during the night. I am more confused than ever. Perhaps the less one knows the better one fares under these circumstances. Hallelujah!


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