A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham explored one of the potential predictive factors for Parkinson’s disease. Their findings showed that older adults who have nightmares may be showing some of the earliest signs of the condition.
“Although it can be really beneficial to diagnose Parkinson’s disease early, there are very few risk indicators and many of these require expensive hospital tests or are very common and non-specific, such as diabetes,” said researcher Dr. Abidemi Otaiku.
“While we need to carry out further research in this area, identifying the significance of bad dreams and nightmares could indicate that individuals who experience changes to their dreams in older age – without any obvious trigger – should seek medical advice.”
Identifying potential risk factors
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 4,000 men over the age of 67 who lived by themselves and were enrolled in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study. The men answered questions about their lives over the course of 12 years. Many of the surveys asked them questions about their sleep habits and how often they experienced nightmares.
The study identified a link between participants who regularly experienced nightmares and a higher risk of Parkinson’s. Those who had recurring bad dreams were twice as likely to develop the disease, and those who had recurring nightmares within the first five years of the study were three times as likely to develop the disease.
The researchers explained that many of the participants exhibited no other symptoms related to Parkinson's at the time they were experiencing the nightmares. However, they ultimately were diagnosed with the condition within a few years.