Increased risk of dementia linked to nightmares?

Increased risk of dementia linked to nightmares?

Increased risk of dementia linked to nightmares?

A new study has found that middle aged people who experience frequent bad dreams are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life.

The research done at the University of Birmingham and published in The Lancet journal, eClinicalMedicine, suggests nightmares may become prevalent several years or even decades before the characteristic memory and thinking problems of dementia set in. Read on to know more from Dr. Mustafa Seyam, Consultant Neurologist

What is your opinion on this study?

There are studies that confirm the definite link between sleep disorders and dementia, particularly Alzheimer dementia. However, there are different kinds of sleep disorders, majorly classified as ones that occur in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement sleep (non-REM).

There is a higher risk to develop neurodegenerative diseases, e. g. dementia, Parkinson disease, Multi system atrophy by sleep disorder occurring during REM sleep. Unlikely by non-REM, there is no proven correlation between dementia and sleep disorders occurring during non-REM sleep.

A not very commonly known fact is that frequent nightmares could be sometimes also a certain kind of sleep disorder occurring during REM- sleep. Nightmares depicting specific characteristics like frequent awakening, being aware of the dream and being unable to move or speak -in a state of sleep paralysis is the most common indication. This is the distinguishing factor between nightmares and other sleep disorders caused during REM sleep. However, it is to be noted that clinical signs alone will not be sufficient to diagnose a sleep disorder, one will also require a sleep study.

Based on this study, what are the steps that can be taken in advance to slow down the onset of dementia?

A very recently published study about Alzheimer Dementia discussed various steps to slow down the progression of dementia. Physical & mental activity is considered extremely crucial to slow the onset of dementia. Having an active body, mind and social competency are key factors in maintaining overall mental health.

The human brain starts developing changes 20 years before the appearance of any clinical symptoms. Early screenings are important to identify patients who may be at high risk of developing dementia in the future and begin treatment early, if needed. Growing age is a risk factor for dementia, however that doesn’t make dementia a normal aspect of ageing.

The FDA recently approved a new and improved medication containing antibodies that work against the ‘amyloid’ – a toxic substance that destroys the nerve cells in the brain.

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