Distressing dreams and risk of Parkinson's disease: A population-based cohort study

Dr Abidemi I Otaiku

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Background: Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with alterations to the phenomenology of dreaming - including an increased frequency of distressing dreams. Whether distressing dreams may precede the development of PD is unknown. This study investigated the association between frequent distressing dreams and the risk of incident PD.

Methods: 3818 men aged 67 years or older from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS), a population-based cohort from the USA, who were free from PD at baseline (December 2003 - April 2011) and completed item 5h of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index - which probes the frequency of distressing dreams in the past month, were included in this analysis. 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.

Findings: During a mean follow-up of 7·3 years, 91 (2·4%) cases of incident PD were identified. 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 = 0.02). When stratified by follow-up time, frequent distressing dreams were associated 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 = 0·01), however no effect was found during the subsequent 7 years (OR, 1·55; 95% CI, 0·7-3·3; P = 0·26).

Interpretation: In this prospective cohort, frequent distressing dreams were associated with an increased risk for incident PD. The association was only significant within the 5 years prior to diagnosis, which suggests that frequent distressing dreams may be a prodromal symptom of PD.

Funding: The study received no external funding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101474
Early online date8 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) Study is supported by National Institutes of Health funding. The following institutes provide support: the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research under the following grant numbers: U01 AG027810, U01 AG042124, U01 AG042139, U01 AG042140, U01 AG042143, U01 AG042145, U01 AG042168, U01 AR066160, R01 AG066671, and UL1 TR000128. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides funding for the MrOS Sleep ancillary study “Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men” under the following grant numbers: R01 HL071194, R01 HL070848, R01 HL070847, R01 HL070842, R01 HL070841, R01 HL070837, R01 HL070838, and R01 HL070839.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)


  • Dreaming
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Nightmares


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