Abidemi Otaik, University of Birmingham | | January 2, 2023
Abidemi Otaik, a neurology fellow at the University of Birmingham and a dream researcher, talks about his new finding that people with Parkinson’s have nightmares 15 times more often than people without the disease.
When we fall asleep each night, we spend several hours in a virtual world created by our brain. There, we are the protagonists of unfolding stories rather than consciously creating them.In other words, we are dreaming.
For most people, dreams are mostly pleasant, sometimes negative, often bizarre, but seldom frightening…that is, if they are remembered at all. However, about 5% of people have a very memorable and frightening nightmare (a bad dream that wakes them up) every week or night.
A recent study found that people with Parkinson’s disease have more bad dreams and nightmares than people without the disease. increase.
In a study I conducted in 2021, people with newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease who had recurring dreams with “aggressive or action-filled” content were more likely to have post-diagnosis sleep than those without aggressive dreams. It turns out that the disease progresses more rapidly over the years. As such, my research, along with similar research, strongly suggests that Parkinson’s patients’ dreams can predict their future health status.
Can dreams be predictors of health?
This made me think that the dreams of people who do not have Parkinson’s disease can also predict future health conditions. My latest research, published in The Lancet’s eClinical Medicine journal, shows that they can. Specifically, we showed that frequent nightmares and nightmares in old age could be an early warning sign of impending Parkinson’s disease in otherwise healthy people.
I analyzed data from a large US study that included 12 years of data from 3,818 elderly men living independently. At the beginning of the study, men completed various questionnaires. One of them included a question about bad dreams.
Participants who reported bad dreams more than once a week were followed for an average of seven years at the end of the study to see if they were more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
During this period, 91 people were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Those who reported having frequent bad dreams at the start of the study were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared to those who had fewer nightmares each week.
Interestingly, a significant proportion of diagnoses were made during the first five years of study. During this period, the participant who had frequent bad dreams was more than three times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
These results suggest that older adults who are one day diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may begin having bad dreams and nightmares years before the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement, appear. suggests that
The study also shows that our dreams reveal important information about brain structure and function and may be important targets for neuroscience research.
But it’s important to emphasize that only 16 of the 368 men who had frequent bad dreams in this study developed Parkinson’s disease. Because Parkinson’s disease is relatively rare, most people who have frequent bad dreams are unlikely to get it.
Still, the findings may be important for people with other known risk factors for Parkinson’s disease, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and constipation. If it appears suddenly in later life), recognizing that it may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease may lead to early diagnosis and early treatment. One day, doctors may be able to intervene and stop Parkinson’s from developing completely.
My team is currently planning to use electroencephalography (a technique that measures brain waves) to investigate the biological reasons for changes in dreams in people with Parkinson’s disease. and may help identify treatments that delay or prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease in people at risk.