Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized by recurring seizures. The exact cause of epilepsy is not always known, but it is thought to be related to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
There is evidence to suggest that sleep can have an impact on epilepsy, and epilepsy can contribute to sleep problems.
Sleep deprivation may trigger seizures
For people with epilepsy, sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of seizures. This may be because sleep deprivation can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain, leading to an increase in abnormal electrical activity that can trigger seizures.
It’s important for people with epilepsy to get enough high-quality sleep to help manage their condition.
Sleep disorders linked to epilepsy
In addition, certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have also been linked to an increased risk of epilepsy. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s airways become blocked during sleep, interrupting their breathing. This can cause the brain to become oxygen-deprived, which may increase the risk of seizures.
Epilepsy may be linked to other sleep disorders as well. One study found that 43 percent of participants with epilepsy had clinically significant insomnia. In this sample, researchers found that insomnia was associated with poor short-term seizure control and worsened quality of life.
How epilepsy impacts sleep
While sleep problems may affect symptoms of epilepsy, epilepsy can also worsen the ability to get good sleep or worsen existing sleep disorders.
Nighttime seizures can lead to sleep disruptions or awakenings. In fact, the Epilepsy Society notes that, for some people, the effects of having a seizure may upset sleep patterns for several days.
Also, some drugs used to treat epilepsy may interfere with sleep. Some medications may make people sleepier or lead to problems falling or staying asleep.
Managing sleep and epilepsy
Getting adequate, high-quality sleep may help to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in people with epilepsy. Follow these 14 tips to improve your sleep.
People with trouble sleeping should speak with a health care provider to identify the cause of their sleep problems.
Medical review by Rafael J. Sepulveda-Acosta, MD