Do nightmares in adulthood herald senile dementia?

One study suggests that adults over the age of 35 who have at least one bad dream a week are four times more likely to experience cognitive decline in old age.

“Middle-aged people who have frequent nightmares may be at risk of accelerated cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia as they age, according to Some comments.” the british daily The Guardian so it echoes thestudy published on September 21 in eClinicalMedicinefor which the neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham Abidemi Otaiku analyzed data from three research papers.

For this study, the sleep quality and brain health of more than 600 people between the ages of 35 and 64 and 2,600 people over the age of 79 were followed for several years. The data was then analyzed using statistical software which showed that people with a higher frequency of distressing dreams were more likely to experience cognitive decline and be diagnosed with dementia.

In his study, the researcher details:

“Compared to middle-aged people who say they rarely have nightmares, people who have nightmares every week have four times the risk of cognitive decline.”

Also, among older participants, those who reported frequent nightmares were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia in subsequent years.

It remains to understand the mechanisms at work

At the moment, there is nothing to explain this link between the frequency of nightmares and cognitive decline. One of the clues presented is that people with nights filled with terrifying dreams are also those who sleep poorly. Prayed from previous studies showed that prolonged periods of poor-quality sleep increased levels of proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Another clue is the existence of a genetic factor that underlies both phenomena at the same time. These hypotheses will require more work.

Abidemi Otaiku’s working hypothesis is that neurodegeneration in the right frontal lobe of the brain makes it difficult to control emotions, which turn into nightmares in dreams. She foresees in her results – which must be confirmed by other studies – a possibility of early diagnosis of age-related diseases, and therefore of better support for people who are at risk of suffering from them. He concludes:

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