Frequent Nightmare Could Be An Early Warning Sign Of Dementia

Dementia is a confusing disease: it appears only late and profoundly disturbs memory, thinking and cognitive abilities. Up to 4.4 million people are expected to be living with dementia in India, and this number mainly includes the elderly.

The average person will spend about six years of their entire life dreaming in 2022. Dreams baffle us as much as they become our reflections; We do not understand how or why we dream, but “good dreams”, “bad dreams” and, in some cases, “non-dreams” continue to determine much of our well-being.

For people who are middle-aged or older, nightmares can be especially revealing, as new research suggests they may indicate a future risk of developing dementia.

Frequent Nightmare Could Be An Early Warning Sign Of Dementia

“We have shown for the first time that distressing dreams or nightmares may be associated with dementia risk and cognitive decline in healthy adults from the general population,” said Abidemi Otaiku, of the Center for Human Brain Health at the University of Birmingham, in a statement. Press release. .

Dementia is a confusing disease: it appears only late and profoundly disturbs memory, thinking and cognitive abilities. Up to 4.4 million people are expected to be living with dementia in India, and this number mainly includes the elderly.

Finding ways to detect dementia early is crucial to allow for better care and treatment, if needed. Otaiku and team looked to dreams for answers, and their work was published in the Lancet eClinical Medicine. Their study included nearly 600 participants ages 35 to 64 and another cohort of 2,600 participants ages 90 and older. Between 2002 and 2012, participants were asked to complete a series of questionnaires, one of which tracked how often people had nightmares.

The results were as follows: Middle-aged people between the ages of 35 and 64 who had nightmares every week were four times more likely to experience a decline in their cognitive abilities in the next 10 years. For the other cohort (over 90), the increase in nightmares meant they were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Simply put, nightmares can indicate memory loss and trouble thinking years or even decades before they happen.

Our dreams can reveal a surprising amount of information about the health of our brains,” Otaiku wrote in The Conversation. Middle Ages. “There is a high prevalence of late or missed diagnoses of dementia; most people were unaware, had limited resources, and cases were identified only after a caregiver raised concerns.

Frequent Nightmare Could Be An Early Warning Sign Of Dementia

The connection between dementia and dreams is a bit confusing. One explanation has to do with how the brain controls emotions. It’s plausible that middle-aged people in the early stages of dementia have some form of neurodegeneration in certain brain regions, which means the brain may not be able to regulate anxiety, stress, or negative emotions during dreams .

“This can manifest as nightmares and depression in the years leading up to a dementia diagnosis.” Interestingly, the association between cognitive decline and future risk of dementia was seen more frequently in men than in women.

Another explanation is that bad dreams and poor sleep quality could be a causative factor in dementia itself. Previous research has linked vivid dreams, sleep problems, restless legs syndrome and nightmares to Lewy body dementia (the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease), a type of cognitive decline.

In 2021, researchers studying the link between sleep and dementia wrote: “It’s always been a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to interpreting the link between poor sleep and dementia.

Was it really did the lack of sleep cause the dementia, or was it just the early symptoms of dementia causing the lack of sleep?There was some resolution, as their study showed that for some people in their 50s, poor sleep increased the risk of developing dementia in 25 years or more in the future The fragmented dream and nightmares are pieces that fit in any corner of this puzzle.

But this knowledge offers hope. Otaiku agrees that unification requires more work and research, but “bad dreams could be a useful way to identify people at high risk of dementia and develop strategies to delay the onset of the disease.”

For example, bad dreams can be prevented and, in some cases, even treated. And previous experiments have shown that when nightmares go away, people’s memory and thinking skills increase. In some cases, treating nightmares also reduced the prevalence of a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, another form of dementia.

Caring for and treating dementia is as much about finding a cure as it is about slowing cognitive decline in people. And looking at the bad dreams that frighten and disturb us could provide us with some answers.

Article Reference FromAbidemi Otaiku, BMBS, clinical fellow, neurology, Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham, U.K.; Maria Carrillo, PhD, chief science officer, Alzheimer’s Association; Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, director, Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, New York City; eClinical Medicine, Sept. 21, 2022, online

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