Bad dreams in middle age could be a sign of dementia risk, study finds

People who frequently have bad dreams in middle age may experience more rapid cognitive decline and be at higher risk of dementia as they age, the data shows. If confirmed, the research could eventually lead to new ways to screen for dementia and intervention to slow the rate of decline. From a report: Most people have bad dreams from time to time, but about 5% of adults have nightmares – dreams that are bad enough to wake them up – at least once a week. Stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation are all potential triggers, but previous research on people with Parkinson’s disease has also linked frequent distressing dreams to faster rates of cognitive decline and increased risk of developing dementia in the future.

To determine if the same might be true for healthy adults, Dr Abidemi Otaiku from the University of Birmingham turned to data from three previous studies that looked at people’s sleep quality and then categorized them. followed for many years, assessing their brain health and other outcomes. . This included more than 600 middle-aged adults (35 to 64) and 2,600 seniors aged 79 and over. Their data was analyzed using statistical software to determine whether those who had a higher frequency of distressing dreams were more likely to experience cognitive decline and be diagnosed with dementia. The research, published in eClinicalMedicine, found that middle-aged people who had bad dreams at least once a week were four times more likely to experience cognitive decline over the next decade than those who rarely had nightmares. . Among older participants, those who frequently reported distressing dreams were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia in subsequent years.

Martin E. Berry