Children Who Have Frequent Nightmares at Greater Risk of Dementia, Parkinson’s by Age 50

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

A new study published in The Lancet’s eClinicalMedicine journal showed that children who experience regular bad dreams and nightmares between the ages of seven and 11, may be nearly twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment (the core feature of dementia) by the time they reach age 50. And they may be up to seven times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by age 50.

The study used data from the well-known 1958 British birth cohort study, which follows the lives of all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during the week of March 3–9, 1958.

When the children were aged seven (1965) and 11 (1969), their mothers answered a range of questions about their health, including whether they had experienced bad dreams in the previous three months (yes/no).

The 6,991 children were categorized on how regularly they experienced bad dreams at ages seven and 11: “never,” “occasional,” or “persistent.” Then, statistical software was used to determine whether the children with more regular bad dreams were more likely to develop cognitive impairment or be diagnosed with Parkinson’s by the time they turned 50 (2008).

The results were clear. The more regularly the children experienced bad dreams, the more likely they were to develop cognitive impairment or be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Remarkably, compared with children who never had bad dreams, those who had persistent bad dreams were 76% more likely to develop cognitive impairment and were 640% more likely to develop Parkinson’s. This pattern was similar for both boys and girls.

These results suggest that having regular bad dreams and nightmares during childhood may increase the risk of developing progressive brain diseases like dementia or Parkinson’s disease later in life. They also raise the intriguing possibility that reducing bad dream frequency during early life could be an early opportunity to prevent both conditions.

Although these findings sound alarming, put in their proper context, they shouldn’t be. Of the roughly 7,000 children included in the study, only 268 (4%) had persistent bad dreams according to their mothers. Among these children, only 17 had developed cognitive impairment or Parkinson’s disease by age 50 (6%).

So it is likely that the vast majority of people who have persistent bad dreams in childhood are not going to develop early-onset dementia or Parkinson’s.

Source: StudyFinds

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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