New study shares early indicators of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia from nightmares and the effective treatment for patients.
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellow in Neurology at the University of Birmingham in the United kingdom, Abidemi Otaiku, published his latest scientific and scholarly investigation, titled “Distressing Dreams, Cognitive Decline, and Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Study of Three Population-Based Cohorts'', in The Lancet eClinicalMedicine journal. The subject matter of Otaiku’s study is on mind, brain health, and the development of dementia from experiencing nightmarish dreams. The study revealed frequent and intense nightmares, especially distressing bad dreams that shock us awake, may increase our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A person spends a third of their life asleep and a quarter of their life amounting to over six years of the average 73 year life span dreaming. Otaiku’s findings suggest experiencing persistent bad dreams is an early indicator and direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Otaiku reviewed and analyzed data collected from Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, the Study of Osteoporotic Fracture in Women (SOF), and the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS), three extensive United States studies on health and aging. The studies’ populations included 605 people between the ages of 35 and 64 (MIDUS), and 2,600 people between the ages of 79 and older (SOF and MrOS). The MIDUS study observed dementia-free participants at the beginning of the study for an average of nine years and an average of five years of observation was conducted for participants 79 years of age and older (SOF and MrOS). Subjects of the study were asked various questions related to dreams and memory including how frequent they experienced unsettling bad dreams and nightmares.
Otaiku sought to understand if subjects of the study who reported experiencing more nightmares were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, develop declines in cognition, memory, and thinking skills. Otaiku found that participants of the study between the ages of 35 and 64 who reported experiencing nightmares every week were 4 times as likely to develop cognitive decline during the duration of the study and participants aged 79 and older were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Men aged 79 and older who experienced nightmares every week were five times more likely to develop dementia compared to men of the same age range who reported not being subject to bad dreams. Women of the same age group were 41% more likely to experience cognitive decline and be diagnosed with dementia than their non-nightmare having counterparts.
“A higher frequency of distressing dreams was significantly more associated linearly and statistically with higher risk of cognitive decline among middle-aged adults... and cause dementia among older adults.” Otaiku observed. Experiencing consistent intense nightmares between the ages of 35 to 79 and older may be linked to increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia. Neurologists, geriatrician, and psychologists treat patients with nightmares by administering and prescribing medicines like prazosin, an a(1)-adrenoceptor antagonist that prevents memory deterioration. Prazosin has been proven to prevent memory decline and reduce the number of abnormal protein, amyloid β, buildup linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Patients treated with prazosin have reported improvements in cognition, memory, and critical thinking abilities.
Sleep and dreaming play vital roles in our health and well-being. Advancements made in medical science to date have provided little insights into how dreams are created, why humans and animals dream, and the significance of dreams for brain, mind, and bodily health.
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