Frequent Nightmares in Older Men May Signal Later PD, Study Says

A new study suggests that men who have disturbing dreams more than once a week have a risk that is more than twice as high as the population of developing Parkinson disease (PD).

Parkinson disease (PD) is linked with disturbing dreams, but whether these dreams may signal later PD has been unclear. A new study suggests that men who have these dreams more than once a week have a risk that is more than twice as high as the general population.

The current study looked at data from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS), an observational, longitudinal cohort study that tracked health outcomes at 6 US sites. The study enrolled 5994 community-dwelling men aged 65 years or older.

In this study, 3818 men aged 67 years or older were included in the analysis (mean age was 77). They were free from PD at baseline (December 2003 – April 2011) and had completed item 5h of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which asks about the frequency of distressing dreams in the past month.

Incident PD was based on doctor diagnosis. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) for incident PD according to distressing dream frequency, with adjustment for potential confounders.

During a mean follow-up of 7.3 years, 91 (2.4%) cases of incident PD were identified. Compared with those without PD, men with the disease were more likely to be depressed.

Participants with frequent distressing dreams at baseline had a 2-fold risk for incident PD (OR, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.1-3.6; P = .02).

When stratified by follow-up time, frequent distressing dreams were linked with a greater than 3-fold risk for incident PD during the first 5 years after baseline (OR, 3.38; 95%CI, 1.3-8.7; P = .01).

During the subsequent 7 years, no effect was seen (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 0.7-3.3; P = .26).

The author said it is the first study to show that frequent distressing dreams in community-dwelling older adults may be linked with an increased risk for developing PD.

The study had several limitations. MrOS only enrolled males ages 65 and older, so it is unknown if the findings are applicable for females or individuals younger than 65. Cases of PD were self-reported, so it is possible some cases were missed or misclassified.

These types of dreams and their frequency may be a prodromal sign of PD that could warrant further investigation, the author noted.

Reference

Otaiku A. Distressing dreams and risk of Parkinson's disease: a population-based cohort study. EClinicalMedicine.Published online June 8, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2022.101474