How nightmares and ‘daymares’ may serve as early indicators of autoimmune disease

How nightmares and ‘daymares’ may serve as early indicators of autoimmune disease

Nightmares and ‘Daymares’ Could Be Early Warning Signs of Autoimmune Disease

An increase in nightmares and hallucinations—or ‘daymares’—could herald the onset of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, according to a recent study by an international team led by researchers from the University of Cambridge and King’s College London.

The study, published in eClinicalMedicine, surveyed 676 people living with lupus and 400 clinicians, as well as conducting detailed interviews with 69 individuals with systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases, including lupus. The researchers found that there is a strong correlation between disrupted dream sleep and the onset of lupus, with many patients experiencing vivid and distressing nightmares up to a year before the disease manifested.

Hallucinations were also reported by a significant number of patients, with many describing their experiences as terrifying and disorienting. The use of the term “daymares” to describe these hallucinations led to a breakthrough for many patients, providing a less frightening and stigmatized way to discuss their symptoms.

Patients experiencing hallucinations were often hesitant to share their experiences, and many specialists had never considered nightmares and hallucinations as indicators of disease flares. However, recognizing these early warning signs could potentially improve patient care and reduce clinic times by averting flares at an earlier stage.

Lead author Dr. Melanie Sloan emphasized the importance of clinicians discussing mental health and neurological symptoms with their patients, as these can often be overlooked in the context of autoimmune diseases. Senior study author Professor David D’Cruz encouraged more doctors to inquire about nightmares and other neuropsychiatric symptoms, which are more common in autoimmune conditions than previously thought.

The study also highlighted cases where patients had been misdiagnosed or hospitalized for conditions such as psychotic episodes, only for their symptoms to be later attributed to autoimmune diseases like lupus. By recognizing the early signs of these conditions, healthcare providers can better monitor disease progression and provide appropriate care to patients.

Overall, the research underscores the significance of paying attention to nightmares and hallucinations as potential indicators of autoimmune diseases, offering a valuable tool for early detection and intervention. It is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to be aware of these symptoms and their implications for disease management.