Original Article Written By: Asma Ali Zain
Summarized By: Neurobit
Middle-aged people who experience frequent bad dreams are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life, according to the article “Increased risk of dementia linked to nightmares” published November 29th, 2022.
At the University of Birmingham, research was conducted on 600 men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 and 2,600 adults 79 years old or older, all dementia-free at the start of the experiment. After nine years for the younger experimental group and five years for the older participants, follow-up tests were done to gather longitudinal data.
The results of the study found that middle-aged individuals ranging from 35-60 years old experiencing weekly nightmares are four times more likely to experience cognitive decline contingent with dementia over the following decade. In contrast, the older participants suffering from weekly nightmares were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia later on. Surprisingly, the results showed a discrepancy between the likelihood of developing dementia and sex, suggesting that older men who report having weekly nightmares are up to five times more likely to develop dementia, while older women also experiencing nightmares only depicted a 41 percent increase in dementia risk factors.
“We have demonstrated for the first time that distressing dreams, or nightmares, can be linked to dementia risk and cognitive decline among healthy adults in the general population,” said Dr. Abidemi Otaiku of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health. While there is still work that needs to be done to be certain there is a link between nightmares and dementia, Dr. Otaiku believes the study is important, as there are few dementia biomarkers that can be identified as early as middle age. If a link between the two is confirmed, and if individuals at high risk of developing dementia are identified at a younger age, early interventions can be put in place to slow down the onset of the disease.
Additionally, Dr. Mustafa Seyam, a Consultant Neurologist at Fakeeh University Hospital, Dubai Silicon Oasis, commented that “There is a higher risk to develop neurodegenerative diseases by sleep disorders occurring during REM sleep, but it is unlikely by non-REM since there is no proven correlation between dementia and sleep disorders occurring during non-REM sleep,”.
Dr. Seyam added that “Early screenings are important to identify patients who may be at high risk of developing dementia in the future to begin treatment early. Aging is a risk factor for dementia, however, that doesn’t make dementia a normal aspect of aging,”.
Along with continuing to investigate if the prevalence of nightmares is a risk factor for dementia, future studies will include testing if dream characteristics, such as how vivid they are and how often we remember them, are linked to future dementia risk in young people.
Ali, A., & Abbas, F. (2022, November 29). Increased risk of dementia linked to nightmares. Omnia Health Insights. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://insights.omnia-health.com/clinical/increased-risk-dementia-linked-nightmares