We spend one third of our lives sleeping. And 1 / 4 of our sleep is spent dreaming. So for the common individual residing in 2022, whose life expectancy is roughly 73 years, that is simply over six years of dreaming.
I discovered that middle-aged contributors who had nightmares each week had been 4 occasions extra prone to expertise cognitive decline (a precursor to dementia) over the subsequent decade, whereas older contributors had been twice as prone to be recognized with dementia.
Interestingly, the affiliation between nightmares and future dementia was stronger for males than for girls. For instance, older males who’ve nightmares each week are 5 occasions extra prone to develop dementia than older males who haven’t any nightmares. However, the elevated danger in girls was solely 41%. I discovered the same sample within the middle-aged group.
Overall, these outcomes recommend that frequent nightmares may be one of many first indicators of dementia, which may precede the event of reminiscence and pondering issues by years and even a long time – particularly in males.
Alternatively, additionally it is potential that unhealthy desires and common nightmares may also be a reason for dementia.
Given the character of this research, it’s not potential to find out which of those theories is right (though I think it’s the former). However – whichever principle holds true – the gist of the research stays the identical, specifically that nightmares and common nightmares in center age and outdated age may be related to an elevated danger of dementia later in life.
A treatable drawback
The excellent news is that recurring nightmares are widespread Treatable. And first-line medical remedies for nightmares have been proven to scale back the buildup Abnormal proteins associated to Alzheimer’s illness. There have additionally been case experiences displaying enhancements in reminiscence and pondering expertise after remedy for nightmares.
These findings recommend that treating nightmares may assist sluggish cognitive decline and forestall dementia in some folks. This can be an vital avenue to discover in future analysis.
The subsequent steps in my analysis will contain investigating whether or not nightmares in younger folks may even be related to an elevated danger of dementia. These nightmares will help decide whether or not dementia is the trigger or, in some folks, simply an early symptom. I intend to analyze whether or not different traits of desires, corresponding to how typically we bear in mind our desires and the way vivid they’re, can even assist decide how doubtless individuals are to develop dementia within the future.
This analysis may not solely assist make clear the connection between dementia and dreaming and supply new alternatives for early analysis – and presumably early intervention – however may additionally shed new gentle on the character and performance of the mysterious phenomenon we name dreaming.