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Distressing Dreams and Risk of Parkinson's Disease

25 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2022

See all articles by Abidemi Idowu Otaiku

Abidemi Idowu Otaiku

University of Birmingham - Centre for Human Brain Health; Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust - Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust



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

Methods: 3,830 men from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS), a population-based cohort, who were free from PD at baseline (2003-2011) 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. Multivariate 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 had a 2-fold risk for incident PD (OR, 2·03; 95% CI, 1·1-3·6, P =0.02). When stratified by follow-up time, frequent distressing dreams were associated with a 6-fold risk for incident PD during the first 4 years after baseline (OR, 5·60; 95% CI, 2·1-15·1; P <0.001), however this association had attenuated during the subsequent 8 years (OR, 1·24; 95% CI, 0·5-3·0; P =0·64).

Interpretation: In this prospective cohort, frequent distressing dreams were associated with an increased risk for incident PD. The association was only significant within the 4 years prior to diagnosis, which suggests that frequent distressing dreams may be a prodromal symptom of PD.

Funding Information: There was no funding source for this study.

Declaration of Interests: The author is funded by a National Institute for Health Research academic clinical fellowship.

Ethics Approval Statement: All men provided written informed consent. Each individual site received institutional review board approval before commencement of the study. The present study received approval from the University of Birmingham (Ref No ERN_21-0427).

Keywords: Dreaming, Parkinson's disease, nightmares

Suggested Citation

Otaiku, Abidemi Idowu, Distressing Dreams and Risk of Parkinson's Disease. Available at SSRN: or

Abidemi Idowu Otaiku (Contact Author)

University of Birmingham - Centre for Human Brain Health ( email )

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust - Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust ( email )

United Kingdom