Reflecting on Vivid Dreams: A Precursor to Parkinson's?

Last updated: October 2021

Nighttime is not good for Posy. Actually, it never has been. Why was a very confident, happy child so fearful of the dark? Every shadow was a bad person coming to burgle the house or hurt her family.

In her dreams today, baddies are always pursuing her. After long struggles, she thinks for a second that she has got safely home, but the house has transformed from a comforting sanctuary into a scary, dark building where none of the light switches work, and the doors won't lock.

As a child, she would usually dream about the house catching fire or a giant fox trying to get in. Every night, little Posy tried to save her beloved family (and her 84 dolls) from these situations.

Why was this happening?

It is easy to pinpoint the probable stimuli for these topics. But it is more difficult to understand why they should have affected her so deeply and constantly? Was this infant REM sleep disorder?

It is possible that Posy's morbid terror of fire was first sparked by an exceedingly grim fairytale? This fear was reinforced each November 5th when effigies of Guy Fawkes were burned on a massive bonfire to the accompaniment of noisy fireworks.

TV bombarded Posy annually with safety warnings and horrific images of people badly burned and swathed in bandages. These were forever imprinted in her brain. To this day, she keeps a nervous distance from open fires and wishes she had never heard the story of the heroic saint, Jeanne d'Arc, burnt "at the stake."

Nightmares and fears

After reading Noddy at the Seaside, Posy was scared of enormous crabs biting her toes and never letting go! And you can guess that, after Jaws was released, Posy has not got back in the ocean!

The fox, rather oddly, was a giant creature in Posy's young mind. Posy's mother used to try to sing her to sleep with songs, and Posy always asked for "Paul's Little Hen." This hen runs away from the farmyard and encounters a fox with a "great, bushy tail."

"'Cluck, cluck, cluck,' cried the poor little creature. 'Cluck, cluck, cluck' she cried in vain. Paul made a dash, but he could not save her. Now I shall never dare go home again." (Posy is almost weeping, writing this!)

"Sing it again, Mummy," pleaded a troubled little Posy every single night. Posy's mother said she thought it was because Posy liked the song, but, no! It was because Posy hoped that this time, Paul might be able to save his pet from such a horrendous fate!

Sadly, the story never changed. Consequently, an enormous, all-powerful fox would come to Posy's house at night. A threatening shadow would be cast over an upstairs window and Posy was terrified that her family would be hurt.

She dreads going to sleep

Posy never woke up screaming. If utterly terrified, she might crawl into bed with her parents. Mostly, she just dreaded going to sleep and hated the dark. She still does.

The content of Posy's dreams have changed, but the feeling never alters. Posy tries to protect people and animals, tries to travel home, find her place of work, fend off attackers; all with little success.

A weird additional dream started about 15 years before Posy's Parkinson's disease (PD) diagnosis. Now, in addition to not being able to run (a common dream), she could no longer move properly at all.

Was this a premonition? Or are constant vivid nightmares a sign that Parkinson's is already establishing itself?

Current dreams

Nowadays, Posy dreams about being faced with exams for which she has not studied; performing on stage in unfamiliar plays; not preparing lessons for teaching in a school she cannot locate; trying to perform on a huge, undulating piano with no actual keys; forgetting to feed her baby/dog; never having enough time to clear out her parents' house.

Basically her dreams reinforce that Posy is disorganized in the extreme, something that in real life, Posy takes enormous care to avoid. It is scarce comfort each night when her parents come back to life, as the outcome is always upsetting and negative.

REM sleep behavior disorder

Posy often used to wonder if only creative people have such vivid dreams? After all, she was writing plays at 7 years old. However, her sister - a mathematical genius - has many of the same dreams, she is NOT a Parkie!

So, should we dismiss any theory that vivid, scary nightmares are a sign of or precursor to Parkinson's? Surely, PD wasn't taking over a 4 year old's brain?

Bad dreams are bad enough, but it is an even more sobering thought to have to consider the possibility of developing Parkinson’s REM sleep behavior disorder, and actually hurting someone.

Is it possible to improve our dreams? If so, please help. Posy is fed up with dreaming.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Do you experience issues with spatial awareness?