Brain Science

Can Your Dreams Predict Memory Loss?

Can Your Dreams Predict Memory Loss? about undefined

Since ancient times, dreams have been used to predict people’s future destinies.

And while most of us pooh-pooh the idea that dreams can be used in fortune telling, medical researchers now say that, when it comes to health, not to discount the idea entirely. Because the latest research reveals that certain dreams and patterns of dreaming may be an early warning system alerting us to health trouble ahead.

The research into how dreams reflect upcoming health issues is still in a relatively early stage. But important discoveries have already been made about how your dreams might indicate an increased health risk years or even decades from now.

For example, if you’re suffering from nightmares your memory might deteriorate in the future…

Frequent Nightmares Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

Most of the current dream research focuses on people who frequently have disturbing nightmares – especially those who have bad dreams at least once a week.

A study in England, for instance, of more than 600 people aged 35 to 64 found that those who often have extremely scary dreams were at an increased risk of suffering significant memory problems years later, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.1 Among this group, the folks who had a bad dream once a week or more had a quadrupled risk of developing dementia later in life compared to people who never or very rarely had an extremely disturbing nightmare.

These researchers concluded that frequent nightmares indicate brain problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia waiting ahead even if someone’s memory and intellectual abilities seem to be perfectly fine in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s.

But while people’s cognitive and intellectual abilities were fine during the study, the researchers also report that those with frequent bad dreams “tended to be more depressed, more anxious, had more sleep problems, had worse self-rated health and were more likely to use medications that can affect dreaming.”

Scary Childhood Dreams Can Impact Brain Health Future as an Adult

Other research in England demonstrates that any nightmares you had as a child can affect your future brain health, too.

Researchers used data collected in what’s called the British Birth Cohort Study, which tabulated the dream life of more than 6,900 children starting in the 1950s. The researchers analyzed the frequency of having persistent scary dreams between the ages of 7 and 11 against future memory problems. They found that it caused an 85 percent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease or cognitive impairment by age 50.2

These researchers believe that it might be possible to help kids avert this brain-destruction as an adult by performing “early treatment of distressing dreams.” Of course, so far, nobody knows if that will work to fend off later problems.

In other research on dreams, researchers have evidence that frequent nightmares:

  • Increase your risk for heart disease: A study at Duke involving military veterans found that increases in nightmare frequency and severity indicate your heart and cardiovascular system are in greater danger from heart attack and stroke.3
  • Could be a sign you’re aging faster: Research in Germany demonstrates that persistent nightmares indicate something is going wrong with your body’s hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis – a hormonal system that’s involved with the way you deal with stress. It’s possible that practicing stress control techniques might be able to improve your stress response and slow your aging.4 This doesn’t surprise us, stress management techniques are proven to improve overall health.

Fortunately, there is hope and help…

Improving Your Dream Life With “Nightmare Therapy”

Some of the researchers who are looking into the links between dreams and your health have found good news.

If your nightmares are so significant that they’re disturbing your sleep, they recommend seeking treatment. While these clinicians advocate for a blood-pressure drug called prazosin that can relieve nightmares, take care because it causes side effects like dizziness, headaches, and muscle weakness. Instead, we’d recommend trying nightmare therapy, which involves learning stress reduction techniques.

Nightmare therapy can also entail working with a therapist who helps you learn more reassuring imagery that you can try to incorporate into your dreams. They can also help you rehearse – during the daytime – more benign endings to your nightmares.

In any case, if you suffer from frequently frightening scenarios in your dreams, it’s a good idea to seek professional help in coping with them. Otherwise, they could be predicting trouble ahead for your brain and body.

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