As if nightmares weren’t bad enough, a new study shows that bad dreams can be an early sign of Parkinson’s, according to a press release issued by the University of Birmingham on Tuesday.
Older men who experienced nightmares are twice as likely to have Parkinson’s
The study found that older men who had frequent nightmares were twice as likely to be later diagnosed with Parkinson’s. It has already been established that people with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to have nightmares & bad dreams than adults in the general population, but this new study is the first to use nightmares as an indicator of disease risk.
The lead author Dr. Abidemi Otaiku, from the university’s Center for Human Brain Health, said: “Although it can be very beneficial to diagnose Parkinson’s disease early, there are very few indicators of risk and many of these require expensive hospital tests or are very common & non-specific, such as: Diabetes.
“While we still need to do more research in this area, identifying the importance of bad dreams & nightmares may suggest that people who experience changes to their dreams in older age, without any obvious triggers should seek medical-advice.”
The researchers evaluated 3,818 elderly men who had lived independently for 12 years. Participants were asked to-complete-a range of questionnaires, one of which contained a question about sleep quality.
Those who reported having nightmares at least once a week were then followed up at the end of the study to see if they were more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
From this group of subjects, 91 cases of Parkinson’s were observed. The researchers then concluded that participants who had frequent nightmares were twice as likely to develop disease as those who didn’t.
The first 5 years of the study
In addition, the researchers found that those who reported having nightmares in the first 5 years of the study were more than 3 times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
The study showed that bad dreams & nightmares could be an important precursor for development of characteristic features of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, stiffness & slowness of movement. So if those who often have bad sleep should seek help for Parkinson’s earlier.
The researchers now want to use electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the biological reasons for bad dreams & nightmares and investigate possible means of preventing them. They will also attempt to replicate their findings in larger and more diverse groups of subjects.
Finally, they will further investigate possible links between dreams & other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If nightmares can be linked to even more disorders, it can justify the importance of finding a treatment that will help you prevent it.