Insomnia, Depression Strongly Linked to Frequent Nightmares

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Among the general adult population, depression and insomnia are the strongest predictors of frequent nightmares, according to a Finnish study published in Sleep.

Associations between general well-being and nightmares are very strong, with the strongest connection between depression and nightmares, reported researchers from the University of Turku and the Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare.

The researchers analyzed survey data about nightmare frequency, as well as several items related to socioeconomic status, sleep, mental well-being, life satisfaction, alcohol use, medication, and physical well-being, from 13,922 adults aged 25-74 years, of which 3.9% reported frequent nightmares during the previous 30 days, 45% reported occasional nightmares, and 50.6% reported no nightmares at all.

Of participants with severe depressive symptoms, 28.4% reported frequent nightmares, as did 17.1% of people with frequent insomnia. After further analysis, researchers concluded that the strongest predictors of nightmares were insomnia (OR 6.90), exhaustion and fatigue (OR 6.86), and a negative attitude toward the self (OR 1.32), a symptom of depression. Sex, age, a self-reported impaired ability to work, low life satisfaction, the use of antidepressants or hypnotics, and frequent heavy use of alcohol were also associated with frequent nightmares.

Although the results are limited by the study design, the researchers suggest that nightmares could function as an early indicator of depression onset.

Sleep
Insomnia, Depression Strongly Linked to Frequent Nightmares

The purpose of the study was to identify risk factors for experiencing nightmares among the Finnish general adult population. The study aimed to both test whether previously reported correlates of frequent nightmares could be reproduced in a large population sample and to explore previously unreported associations.

Nightmare frequency as well as several items related to socioeconomic status, sleep, mental well-being, life satisfaction, alcohol use, medication, and physical well-being were recorded with a questionnaire. In multinomial logistic regression analysis, a depression-related negative attitude toward the self, insomnia, and exhaustion and fatigue were the strongest risk factors for experiencing frequent nightmares.

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