Nightmares Possibly Linked to Lupus, Study Finds


Scientists over the years have reached some concerning conclusions when it comes to nightmares and our health. Studies have potentially linked bad dreams to a bevy of health problems that eventually arise, and a new report adds another issue to that list. 

A study just published in The Lancet journal highlights the latest findings. For years, many people have reported that dreams and the brain’s immune system are somehow intertwined, and the study gives some possible scientific backing to that claim. In an online survey of 676 people living with lupus (formally known as systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE), roughly a third of patients said they experienced disrupted dreams in the year before other lupus symptoms emerged. 

“We have long been aware that alterations in dreaming may signify changes in physical, neurological and mental health, and can sometimes be early indicators of disease. However, this is the first evidence that nightmares may also help us monitor such a serious autoimmune condition like lupus, and is an important prompt to patients and clinicians alike that sleep symptoms may tell us about impending relapse,” study co-author Guy Leschziner said in a statement

Lupus is the latest to join a list of ailments that might have a possible connection to bad dreams. A 2022 study found that many who go on to develop Parkinson’s disease—which has been suggested to be caused by autoimmune issues—are plagued with nightmares for up to a decade before diagnosis. Similarly, nightmares are potential predictors of dementia, which also has been found to have a connection to the immune system. Multiple sclerosis patients have also reported having bad dreams before a flare-up. 

Study co-author David D’Cruz noted that the trend of nightmares and so-called “daymares” among lupus patients was something he himself observed in his own work. 

“For many years, I have discussed nightmares with my lupus patients and thought that there was a link with their disease activity,” D’Cruz said. “This research provides evidence of this, and we are strongly encouraging more doctors to ask about nightmares and other neuropsychiatric symptoms.”

Study lead author Dr. Melanie Sloan emphasized how crucial it is for medical professionals to explain these possible connections with their patients. 

“It’s important that clinicians talk to their patients about these types of symptoms and spend time writing down each patient’s individual progression of symptoms,” she said. “Patients often know which symptoms are a bad sign that their disease is about to flare, but both patients and doctors can be reluctant to discuss mental health and neurological symptoms, particularly if they don’t realize that these can be a part of autoimmune diseases.”

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