Nightmares Found to Be Linked to Dementia

Nursing Home Blog

If you or someone you love suffers from nightmares, thrashing and turning all night long, it may be more than just a sleep disturbance. Recent studies have shown that individuals who suffer from sleep behavior disorders, specifically those affecting REM sleep, have a higher risk of developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease. So, that strange nighttime behavior may be a sign of something more.

What the Studies Say

In May of 2017, the Canadian Neuroscience Meeting introduced initial findings that indicated more than 80 percent of patients with REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, eventually develop some sort of neurological disease, which includes dementia. The findings haven’t been peer-reviewed or published, but they show an interesting connection.

The University of Toronto team, led by John Peever, found that RBD patients had damage to the cells in the brainstem responsible for maintaining REM sleep. Eventually, Peever theorized that damage spreads up to the brain and affects other areas, causing dementia and other disorders. According to his research, RBD could be one of the best predictors of the onset of neurological diseases.

This particular study collaborates with studies from 2013 that found that 80 percent of RBD patients would develop a neurological disorder within 10 years. A 2010 study following 43 RBD patients found that 41 of them eventually developed a neurological disease.

What This Research Means

This research is interesting, but what does it mean for people on a day-to-day basis? How can this information be used to help improve quality of life, particularly for elders and others who are at a high risk for developing a neurological disease?

The key to this information is the fact that it can be used to predict the development of a neurological disease, so patients and their caretakers can take measures to slow its development. By making changes before the disease takes root, many individuals can enjoy a longer time with good health, free from the effects of dementia.

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