Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ghouls and Goblins: Severe OSA Decreases Nightmare Recall

Wish you could forget your nightmares? Many people do, but nightmares may indicate healthy sleep patterns.

UPI reports that a new study found that severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) decreased nightmare recall.

Nightmares are dreams that can cause anxiety, terror or distress. An estimated 50 to 85 percent of adults report having at least occasional nightmares.

The study, published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that severe OSA patients reported a significantly lower number of nightmares than otherwise healthy patients.

The study included 393 patients. Sixty-seven percent of the patients were male. Their mean age was 50.5.

Each patient took a sleep test. Their mean AHI was 34.9, indicating a high frequency of severe OSA. AHI, or apnea-hypopnea index, measures the number of times a person stops breathing per hour during sleep. An AHI of more than 30 represents severe OSA.

Participants also reported how frequently they remembered dreams and nightmares. “Frequent” dream and nightmare recall happened at least weekly.

Dream recall and nightmare recall were not associated. Of the participants, 52 percent reported frequent dream recall and 34 percent reported frequent nightmare recall.

Severe OSA had a more negative effect on nightmare recall than on dream recall. Results indicated that nightmare recall decreased as OSA severity increased.

Frequent nightmare recall was reported by more than 70 percent of control subjects and more than 43 percent of mild OSA patients. In contrast, frequent recall occurred in more than 29 percent of moderate OSA patients and more than 20 percent of severe OSA patients.

The researchers believe that OSA suppresses the cognitive experience of nightmares. OSA causes sleep fragmentation. This fragmentation can lead to less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Nightmares generally occur in REM sleep.

The researchers suggest that treatment will help OSA patients get more REM sleep. Treatment may raise the frequency of nightmare recall. While nightmares can be frightening, they indicate better sleep quality.

Oral appliance therapy and CPAP are two common treatment options.

Image by Yogesh Moorjania

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.