Parkinson’s: Frequent nightmares could also be an early signal of the illness

Last update: June 2022


Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that older people who frequently had nightmares were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease as early as possible is particularly beneficial for managing it – with medication or surgery – in order to reduce symptoms or even improve them, as is the case with deep brain stimulation.
But like most neurodegenerative diseases, the first signs of the disease are difficult to detect. “There are very few risk indicators and many of them require expensive hospital tests or are very common and non-specific, such as diabetes”explains in a press release Dr. Abidemi Otaiku of the Human Brain Health Center at the University of Birmingham.

See also the article: Video – Deep Brain Stimulation against Parkinson’s

Nightmares and Parkinson’s Disease

It is in this perspective of identifying reliable early signs of Parkinson’s disease that Dr. Otaiku and his team analyzed data from a large cohort study, that is, a study that aims to determine, over time, the appearance of certain events in participants such as diseases, reactions to certain substances, etc.

The American study involved 3,818 men over 67 years old who had not been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the beginning of the protocol, 12 years earlier. During the study, participants had to regularly fill out questionnaires, one of which related to sleep quality and more specifically to the frequency of nightmares during the last month.

Results: During the follow-up period, 91 cases of Parkinson’s disease were diagnosed. The researchers found that men who reported having frequent nightmares were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who reported little or no nightmares. “The association was only significant in the 5 years prior to diagnosis, suggesting that frequent distressing dreams may be a prodromal symptom (warning sign, nldr) of Parkinson’s disease”concludes the study.

See also the article: Parkinson’s disease: the questions you ask yourself

The study of dreams in neuroscience

Bad dreams and nightmares can therefore be a very early sign of the condition, before other symptoms such as sluggishness, stiffness or tremors appear.

However, the study has some limitations, such as the fact that only elderly men were included. In particular, Dr. Otaiku expressed the need to replicate his results in more diverse and larger cohorts.

Despite these limitations, this work shows the value of studying dreams to better understand the structure and functioning of the brain. According to the University press release, the researchers plan to use electroencephalography (EEG) to examine the biological reasons for the changes in dreams and thus better understand the possible links between dreams and neurodegenerative diseases. , Parkinson’s, but also Alzheimer’s and more.

See also the article: Parkinson’s Disease: The Most Vulnerable Neurons Finally Identified


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