Nightmares, the first signs of Parkinson's disease?

Nightmares, the first signs of Parkinson’s disease?


We all have bad dreams. But according to researchers at the University of Birmingham, when they become recurrent in the elderly, this may well be the first sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the destruction of a very specific population of neurons. Neurons involved in the control of movements. The disease thus gradually becomes disabling. In France, more than 160,000 people are affected.

The signs are well known today: slowness or difficulty in movement, stiffness in the joints or trembling. But other symptoms – even earlier – are gradually being identified. And are sometimes surprising.

Thus, in a study published in eClinicalMedicine, British researchers found that seniors who frequently had nightmares were more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who never had it. In fact, it was already known that patients with the disease had more bad dreams than the general population. But the use of nightmares as an indicator of risk had not been considered until then.

2 times more risk

For its work, the team used a large U.S. study, including data from nearly 4,000 men over 12 years. At the beginning of the study, participants completed a series of questionnaires, including the quality of their sleep. Those who reported bad dreams at least once a week were then followed up to see if they were more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

As a result, 91 men developed the disease. And according to the authors, “those who frequently had bad dreams were twice as likely to be affected as those who never had them.” According to them, “seniors who will one day be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease had probably started having nightmares a few years before the onset of classic symptoms.”

If this work is only observational, the researchers plan to use electroencephalography to examine the biological reasons for such changes in dreams. And see if these kinds of phenomena are found in other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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