Daily Mail

Could bad dreams be a dementia warning?

- By Kate Pickles Health Correspond­ent

HAVING bad dreams in middle age may be a sign that you’re likely to develop dementia in later life, research has suggested.

It found nightmares could become more common years or even decades before thinking and memory problems set in.

Those aged 35 to 64 who experience­d bad dreams on a weekly basis were four times as likely to suffer a decline in memory and sharpness – often a precursor to dementia.

And elderly people who had bad dreams at least once a week were twice as likely to develop dementia, researcher­s found.

Experts said the findings are significan­t as there are few risk indicators for dementia in middle age.

Birmingham University researcher­s examined data from three community-based groups of people in the United States.

These included more than 600 adult men and women aged between 35 and 64 and 2,600 adults aged 79 and older. All were dementia-free at the start of the study and were followed up for an average of nine years for the younger group and five years for the older group.

They were asked questions about the quality of their sleep, including how often they experience­d bad dreams. This data was then analysed using computer software.

The findings linking bad dreams to higher dementia risk appeared to be much stronger for men than for women, with elderly men five times more likely to develop dementia than those reporting no bad nightmares. The increase in risk was only 41 per cent for women, according to the findings published in The Lancet journal eClinicalM­edicine.

A previous study of people with Parkinson’s disease also noted a link between frequent distressin­g dreams and faster rates of cognitive decline.

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

‘This is important because there are very few risk indicators for dementia that can be identified as early as middle age.

‘While more work needs to be done to confirm these links, we believe bad dreams could be a useful way to identify individual­s at high risk of developing dementia and put in place strategies to slow down the onset of disease.’

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