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Nightmares in middle age may be an early sign of dementia risk in future
People who experience frequent bad dreams in middle age are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life, according to research at the University of Birmingham.
In the study, the team examined data from three community-based cohorts in the USA. These included more than 600 adult men and women aged between 35 and 64; and 2,600 adults aged 79 and older. All the participants were dementia-free at the start of the study and followed up for an average of nine years for the younger group and five years for the older participants.
The study started collecting data between 2002 and 2012. Participants completed a range of questionnaires, including the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which includes a question on how often individuals experienced bad dreams.
This data was analysed using statistical software to find out whether participants with a higher frequency of nightmares were more likely to go on to experience cognitive decline and be diagnosed with dementia.
The research shows that middle-aged people (35-64) who experience bad dreams on a weekly basis are four times more likely to experience cognitive decline over the following decade, while older people were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Interestingly, the study found that the associations were much stronger for men than for women. For example, older men experiencing nightmares on a weekly basis were five times more likely to develop dementia than older men reporting no bad dreams. In women, however, the increase in risk was only 41 per cent.
Dr Abidemi Otaiku et al,Distressing dreams, cognitive decline, and risk of dementia: A prospective study of three population-based cohorts,EClinicalMedicine
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed
Isra Zaman is a Life Science graduate from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University, and a postgraduate in Biotechnology from Amity University. She has a flair for writing, and her roles at Medicaldialogues include that of a Sr. content writer and a medical correspondent. Her news pieces cover recent discoveries and updates from the health and medicine sector. She can be reached at email@example.com.