Sleep and Epilepsy: What Every Sleep Technologist Should Know
The inherent relationship between sleep and epilepsy you should know about
Getting a good night's sleep helps our brains to recover from the day's events, so that we can function well the next day. For some eplilepsy patients, a lack of sleep can increase the likelihood that they will have a seizure. For others, having seizures at night can make them feel tired during the day.
What's the relationship between epilepsy and sleep?
Sleeping activates the electrical charges in the brain that result in seizures and seizures are timed according to the sleep wake cycle. For some people (as mentioned before) seizures occur exclusively during sleep. This is especially true for a particular type of epilepsy known as benign focal epilepsy of childhood, also known as Rolandic epilepsy.
When seizures occur during sleep, they may cause awakenings that are sometimes confused with insomnia. Epilepsy patients are often unaware of the seizures that occur while they sleep. They may suffer for years from daytime fatigue and concentration problems without ever knowing why.
For epilepsy patients, sleep problems are a double-edged sword; epilepsy disturbs sleep and sleep deprivation aggravates epilepsy. The drugs used to treat epilepsy may also disturb sleep. Because lack of sleep is a trigger for seizures, achieving healthy sleep on a nightly basis is essential for people with epilepsy.
Epilepsy and sleep disorders
Some patients with epilepsy can also have sleep disorders that are not related to their epilepsy, and some medical conditions can be confused with epilepsy.
Studies have found that Obstructive sleep apnea tends to be a common sleep disorder among epilepsy as well. As well as disrupting sleep, obstructive sleep apnea can trigger seizures. If you snore and are told that you stop breathing during the night, your sleep technologist can arrange for you to have a test to monitor the level of oxygen in your blood overnight, to help diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.
A solution: tips for a better night's sleep
There are ways you can reduce the likelihood of an epileptic episode while you sleep and improve the quality of your sleep on a regular basis.
We have written extensively about solutions for those who feel tired all the time here and how to develop a better sleep hygiene here.
Want to learn more about the relationship between epilepsy and snoring?
Read our Case of the Month article on an epilepsy patient. The latest Case of the Month article is free and award 1 CEC for every AAST member.