If you often wake up from scary dreams, you might want to pay more attention to your brain health. A new study suggests that frequent nightmares could be a sign of impending dementia, especially for people with Parkinson’s disease.
The study, published in The Lancet, was conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham, who analyzed data from more than 3,200 adults aged 35 to 64 and over 79. None of the participants had dementia at the beginning of the study, which lasted for seven years.
The researchers used a questionnaire called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to measure how often the participants had bad dreams. They also assessed their cognitive function and diagnosed them with dementia if they met the criteria.
The results showed that having nightmares more often was linked to faster cognitive decline and higher risk of dementia in both age groups. The association was stronger for people with Parkinson’s disease, who also had more frequent nightmares than those without the condition.
The researchers speculated that nightmares could reflect underlying brain changes that affect memory and thinking skills. They also suggested that nightmares could disrupt sleep quality, which is important for brain health.
However, they cautioned that their study did not prove a causal relationship between nightmares and dementia, and that other factors could also influence the results. They called for more research to understand the mechanisms behind the link and to explore possible interventions to prevent or treat dementia.
If you are troubled by nightmares, you should not panic or assume that you have dementia. Nightmares are common and can have many causes, such as stress, trauma, medication, or sleep disorders.
However, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your sleep problems and check your cognitive function regularly.