Frequent nightmares could be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s disease | UK News

Experiencing frequent bad dreams and nightmares could be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, a study suggests.

Distressing dreams have been previously associated with the neurological disease.

But now experts from the University of Birmingham think there is evidence that regular bad dreams could be an early warning sign for developing the condition.

Lead author Dr Abidemi Otaku said: “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.”

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and co-ordination.

Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking.

The new study – published by eClinicalMedicine – used data from 3,818 men from the US Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study.

None of the men – who were aged 67 or over – had Parkinson’s at the start of the research and were asked how often they had bad dreams.

People who said they had distressing dreams at least once a week were then followed up at the end of the study to see whether they were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

During a seven year follow-up, 91 cases were diagnosed, most within the first five years of the research.

Researchers also found those with frequent nightmares during the first five years were more than three times as likely to go on to develop Parkinson’s.

They now plan to use electroencephalography (EEG) – which records brain activity – to look at the biological reasons for dream changes – and extending the research to larger groups of people of both sexes and different backgrounds, and to other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Dr Katherine Fletcher, research communications manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: “It will be interesting to see how this research progresses when researchers begin to unpick the biological changes that are causing these changes to dream content and how this links to the progression of neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s.

“The more that is known about the earliest signs of the condition and how the brain might be changing, the closer research will get to better treatments and a cure.

“This is of vital importance to the estimated 145,000 people currently diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK.”

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