Nightmares linked to these health problems in people with heart disease

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In a new study, researchers found that heart patients with weekly nightmares are five times more likely to feel depressed or anxious and even more likely to have difficulty sleeping compared to those without frequent nightmares.

They suggest health professionals should ask patients if they experience bad dreams as a warning sign for depression, anxiety, or trouble sleeping.

Psychological disorders and insomnia are linked to heart disease and upsetting dreams could be a clue that patients need extra prevention efforts.

The research was conducted by a team at Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.

Previous research has shown that frequent nightmares are linked to sleep and psychological disorders in the general population.

This was the first study to examine this link in patients with heart diseases. It also examined whether heart medications were connected with unpleasant dreams.

The study included 1,233 patients admitted with various heart diseases to Keio University Hospital. The average age was 64 years and 25% were women.

The team found nearly 15% of patients had at least one nightmare per month, and 3.6% had at least one nightmare per week (defined as frequent nightmares).

Women were more likely to have frequent unpleasant dreams compared to men.

Some 45.9% of patients reported insomnia, 18.5% had depression, 16.9% had anxiety, and 28.0% had sleep-disordered breathing.

Frequent nightmares were not linked to heart medications and sleep-disordered breathing but were linked to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Patients with weekly bad dreams were five times more likely to be depressed, five times more likely to be anxious, and seven times more likely to have insomnia.

The findings showed that in people with heart disease, women are more likely than men to have persistent bad dreams—this also mirrors findings in the general public.

Nightmares may be an alert for underlying psychological or sleep problems that should be addressed to avoid new, or worsening, heart problems.

Healthcare professionals should include a question about bad dreams in their assessments.

One author of the study is Dr. Takashi Kohno.

The study is published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

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