Having Nightmares in Middle Age Could Be Sign of Dementia Risk


Mature man eyes wide open with hand on alarm clock unable to sleep at night due to insomniaFor adults over 55, experiencing nightmares can be a sign of an increased risk of dementia. A new study from the UK has found that those who have frequent nightmares in midlife are three times more likely to develop dementia later in life.

While research is ongoing and scientists are still unsure as to why this is the case, it’s important to be aware of this as we age. If you’re having nightmares on a regular basis, be sure to talk to your doctor about it – they may want to run more tests to monitor your risk of dementia.

The study, published in the journal EClinical Medicine, suggests that nightmares may be more common several years before dementia symptoms appear. These traits include memory and thinking problems.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Abidemi Otaiku, said: “This is important because there are very few risk indicators for dementia that can be identified as early as middle age. Although more work needs to be done to confirm these associations, we believe bad dreams could be a useful way to identify individuals at high risk of dementia and develop strategies to slow the onset of the disease.”

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The study compared more than 600 adult men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 with 2,600 adults aged 79 and over. All participants were free of dementia at the start of the study and were followed up for an average of nine years.

All participants had to fill out a series of questionnaires, including the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which includes a question about how often people had bad dreams. Using statistical software, the researchers were able to find out whether participants with a higher frequency of nightmares were more likely to develop cognitive decline and be diagnosed with dementia.

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It found that middle-aged people (35-64) who experienced bad dreams weekly were four times more likely to experience cognitive decline over the following ten years. Older people with bad dreams were only twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Interestingly, it was found that the associations were much stronger for males than for females.

The next steps in this research include investigating whether younger people with nightmares might be associated with a future risk of dementia. Researchers also want to analyze the connection between dream features and dementia risk.

sleep and brain function

While some level of cognitive decline is almost inevitable with age, this study shows how other factors (like sleep) can impair the brain’s ability to function at maximum potential. This can affect memory, concentration, and general brain function.

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