Depression, Insomnia Associated with Frequent Nightmares

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Frequent nightmares are strongly associated with symptoms of depression and insomnia, according to a study published in the journal Sleep.

The study included 13,922 participants aged 25 to 74 years, 53% of whom were women. Each participant completed two independent surveys, one in 2007 and the other in 2012. The surveys included a questionnaire and a health examination.

During a 30-day period, 3.9% of participants reported having frequent nightmares, including 4.8% of female participants and 2.9% of males. Among participants with severe depressive symptoms, 28.4% reported frequent nightmares. For participants with frequent insomnia, 17.1% reported frequent nightmares.

Over 45% of the participants reported having occasional nightmares during a period of 30 days, while 50.6% reported having no nightmares.

After adjusting for potential confounders, the researchers found that insomnia, exhaustion, and negative attitude towards self were the strongest independent predictors for frequent nightmares. The study design did not allow the researchers to determine causality, but they believe their results create new research avenues.

"It might be possible that nightmares could function as early indicators of onset of depression and therefore have previously untapped diagnostic value," said lead author Nils Sandman, MSc, of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Turku in Finland. "Also, because nightmares, insomnia and depression often appear together, would it be possible to treat all of these problems with an intervention directed solely toward nightmares?"

Depression, Insomnia Associated with Frequent Nightmares
Depression, Insomnia Associated with Frequent Nightmares

A new study suggests that symptoms of depression and insomnia are the strongest predictors of having frequent nightmares.

Results show that 3.9% of participants reported having frequent nightmares during the previous 30 days, including 4.8% of women and 2.9% of men. Frequent nightmares were reported by 28.4% of participants with severe depressive symptoms and 17.1% of those with frequent insomnia. Further analysis that adjusted for potential confounders found that the strongest independent risk factors for nightmares were insomnia, exhaustion and the depressive symptom of "negative attitude toward self."

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