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Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea and Epilepsy

It is not uncommon that people suffering from one health problem, like epilepsy, for example, suffer from others that worsen the condition of the first one. And, when it comes to epilepsy, the condition can exacerbate easily if the person suffers from a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The reason for this is the fact that OSA interferes with normal brain activity and sleep and may increase the frequency of seizures in epilepsy patients. So, to learn more about the connection between sleep apnea and epilepsy continue reading this article.

Sleep Apnea and Epilepsy

Statistically speaking, the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States is epilepsy. To be more precise, around 5% of the American population has epilepsy, and 1.5% to 5% have had at least one seizure in their lives. It is characterized by unprovoked and repeated seizures, and if left untreated it can be very dangerous.

Luckily, taking the right medications can help epilepsy patients avoid seizures. Also, if the person also suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, getting proper treatment for the sleep disorder will reduce the risk of seizures.

Although seizures and epilepsy go together, they aren’t mutually exclusive. A person will get diagnosed with epilepsy in case they have at least two unprovoked seizures. That said, a person may have a seizure without having epilepsy diagnosed. One may have only one seizure, usually after a sleepless night, and never get diagnosed with epilepsy.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Seizures

Obviously, there’s a relationship between sleep apnea and seizures since almost 40% of epilepsy patients suffer from sleep apnea too, which only exacerbates seizures. The only way to having a good night’s sleep and avoiding frequent and severe seizures is getting diagnosed and getting proper treatment.

What’s more, some people with epilepsy report that their condition is influenced by their sleep patterns and that sleep deprivation is one of the triggers for seizures. So, when sleep apnea is left untreated, it leads to chronic sleep deprivation and increases the risk of epileptic seizures.

For many epilepsy patients, following healthy sleep patterns is of utmost importance for controlling their condition and seizure frequency. Lack of sleep can trigger seizures because the hormonal balance and brain electrical activity that control the sleep and wake cycle get disrupted when the body lacks sleep.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Nocturnal Seizures

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal leading to seizures. There are various types of epilepsy, some of which increase the risk of nocturnal seizures including:

  • Awakening Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal)
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome
  • Benign Rolandic
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
  • Frontal Lobe Epilepsy

That said, some epilepsy patients will notice that they are likely to experience mini-seizures in their sleep. But, this is only if they wake up by the seizure. So, how to be sure whether or not a person with epilepsy has seizures during sleep if they don’t wake up? The reason is more than obvious – they need to do a sleep test where their brain activity would be monitored by an expert.

The Bottom Line

If you have epilepsy, make sure you get tested for sleep apnea, especially if you have some of the common OSA symptoms like unexplained waking, daytime sleepiness, dry mouth, snoring, and gasping in sleep. Getting diagnosed will help you control both your neurological and sleep disorder and help you reduce seizures and get a good night’s sleep.

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