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Dementia Warning: Nightmares In Middle-age Tied To The Onset Of Disease

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Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar is the editor-in-chief and founder of Revyuh.com. He has been shaping the future of Revyuh.com in terms of content, text, and personnel. He is also a member of the Online News Association - ONA and the Society of Professional Journalists - SPJ. When he's not writing, Amit enjoys watching Netflix, embarrassing himself with chess, or you'll find him exploring the world’s largest general scientific society The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Currently, Amit lives in New Delhi, India. Email: amit.kumar (at) revyuh (dot) com ICE : 00 91 (0) 99580 61723

There are very few risk factors for dementia that can be spotted as early as middle age. A new study shows for the first time that bad dreams, or “nightmares,” can be linked to the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in middle-aged healthy adults.

Bad dreamers in middle age have an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a study conducted at the University of Birmingham.

According to University of Birmingham research, middle-aged people with frequent terrible nightmares are more likely to develop dementia later in life.

A new study published in the eClinicalMedicine magazine of The Lancet reveals that nightmares may become common several years or even decades before the onset of dementia‘s hallmark memory and cognition issues.

“We’ve demonstrated for the first time that distressing dreams, or nightmares,” as explained by Dr. Abidemi Otaiku of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health, “can be linked to dementia risk and cognitive decline among healthy adults in the general population.”

This is crucial because there aren’t many dementia risk factors that may be spotted as early as middle age. Although further research is required to establish these connections, they think nightmares could be a useful tool for identifying people who are at a high risk of dementia and developing preventative measures.

In the study, Dr. Otaiku looked at data from three groups of people living in the same area in the USA. There were more than 600 men and women between the ages of 35 and 64, and 2,600 people who were 79 or older. All of the patients were dementia-free at the beginning of the trial, and the younger participants were followed up for an average of nine years and the older participants for an average of five years.

The study began data collection between 2002 and 2012. Participants filled out a variety of questionnaires, such as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which asks how often people have bad dreams.

Statistical analysis was used to analyze this data to see whether people who reported having more nightmares were more likely to later experience cognitive impairment and be given a dementia diagnosis.

The study found that whereas elderly persons were twice as likely to be given a dementia diagnosis, middle-aged people (35–64) who often have disturbing nightmares are four times more likely to have cognitive deterioration during the following ten years.

It is interesting to note that the connections were substantially stronger for men than for women, according to the study. For instance, older men having no nightmares were five times more likely to get dementia than older men reporting nightmares on a weekly basis. However, the risk was only increased by 41% in women.

In the next steps of the research, scientists will look into whether or not young people who have nightmares are more likely to get dementia later in life.

They will also look into whether or not other dream characteristics, such as how often we remember them and how vivid they are, can also be used to predict dementia risk.

The researchers also intend to look into the molecular causes of terrible dreams in both healthy persons and those with dementia using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG).

Image Credit: Getty

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