Symptoms of depression and insomnia are strong predictors of frequent nightmares, according to new research published in the journal Sleep.
Researchers came to their findings after analyzing data from independent surveys and health exams involving 13,922 adults in Finland. The study found that 3.9% of participants experienced frequent nightmares in the previous 30 days. However, among participants with severe depressive symptoms, the nightmare rate was 28.4%. Among participants with frequent insomnia, the rate of frequent nightmares was 17.1%.
The strongest risk factors for frequent nightmares were insomnia, exhaustion, and a depression-related negative attitude toward self, researchers reported. An impaired ability to work, low life satisfaction, antidepressant or hypnotic use, and frequent heavy use of alcohol were also strongly associated with nightmares.
"Our study shows a clear connection between well-being and nightmares," said lead author Nils Sandman, MSc, researcher in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Finland. "This is most evident in the connection between nightmares and depression, but also apparent in many other analyses involving nightmares and questions measuring life satisfaction and health."
While the study did not examine causality, Sandman said the connection between well-being and nightmares is worth further investigation.
"It might be possible that nightmares could function as early indicators of onset of depression and therefore have previously untapped diagnostic value," he said. "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?"
1. Sandman N, Valli K, Kronholm E, Revonsuo A, Laatikainen T, Paunio T.Nightmares: risk factors among the Finnish general adult population. Sleep. 2015:38:507-514.
2. Depression and insomnia are strongest risk factors for frequent nightmares [press release]. EurekAlert!: Washington, DC; April 2, 2015.‹ Previous articleNext article ›