Heart patients suffering from weekly nightmares are more likely to have depression, anxiety and sleeping disorders compared to those who do not suffer from nightmares, reveal the findings of a study in European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
"Our study shows strong associations between depression, anxiety, insomnia, and bad dreams in patients with heart disease." said the study author Dr. Takashi Kohno of Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
Previous researches had shown that nightmares were linked to sleep and psychological distress in humans. But this new study is the first to be conducted that investigates the relationship between nightmares and heart patients.
It traced the link between heart medications and bad dreams and came to the conclusion that nightmares could be taken as a clue suggesting the patient to take extra care to prevent heart disease.
The study was conducted on 1233 patients admitted in Keio University Hospital, Japan for various heart diseases. The sleep patterns and nightmares were assessed using questionnaires and the sleep-disordered breathing overnight was analysed by measuring the blood oxygen levels. The results showed that nearly 15 per cent of the patients had at least one nightmare per month and nearly 3.6 per cent of them had one nightmare per week.
It also proved that nightmares were not caused by heart medications and diseases but related to depression and anxiety, because the patients suffering from weekly nightmares were found to be five times more likely to be depressed, five times more likely to be anxious and seven times more likely to have insomnia.
While nightmares in children are a common phenomenon which reduces as they grow older, nightmares in adults could be triggered by a number of factors like anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) etc.
"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" added Dr. Kohno.