Do you often have nightmares? It could be a sign of cognitive decline

A new study suggests having frequent nightmares after age 50 could be a sign of more rapid cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia.

A recent study has shown that frequent nightmares may be a warning sign of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Birmingham (Great Britain) therefore wanted to know if the frequency of bad dreams could be linked to cognitive disorders in people who do not suffer from Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

For this study, published on one of The Lancet sites, Dr. Abidemi Otaiku assessed the risk of cognitive decline in 605 adults aged 44 to 57, “who were cognitively normal at baseline, and were followed for a maximum of 13 years ” he explains. It also studied the risk of dementia in 2,600 adults aged 81 to 84. At the start of the study, which ran from 2002 to 2012, participants completed a series of questionnaires, including one that asked how often they had bad dreams and nightmares.

“After adjusting for all covariates, a higher frequency of distressing dreams was statistically significantly associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline in middle-aged adults and a higher risk of all-cause dementia in people elderly” emphasizes the doctor, lead author of the study. “I found that middle-aged participants who had nightmares every week were four times more likely to experience cognitive decline over the next decade, while older participants were twice as likely to receive a diagnosis. Interestingly, the link between nightmares and future dementia was much stronger for men than for women.”

One of the next steps for the doctor will be to determine whether these results suggest that frequent nightmares may be one of the first signs of dementia and precede the onset of memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease. Or determine if regular nightmares are a cause of dementia.

Source : Distressing dreams, cognitive decline, and risk of dementia: A prospective study of three population-based cohortseClinical medicine, septembre 2022

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