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Indiana Legal Services, Inc

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Epilepsy and Sleep

Your brain regulates your sleep-wake cycle, when you get tired and when you fall asleep, and how much time you spend in each stage of sleep. The electrical charges that develop into seizures also begin in the brain. Since both seizures and sleep occur in the brain, it makes sense that they would be connected.

Sleep problems and epilepsy share a complex relationship where each impacts the other. One study summarized it thusly:

  • Electrical brain activity during light sleep may spur seizures.

  • Daytime seizures and anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) like anticonvulsant can contribute to fragmented sleep and reduced sleep efficiency.

  • Co-morbid sleep disorders further disrupt sleep, exacerbate symptoms of epilepsy, and impair overall quality of life.

  • Some symptoms of the sleep disorders themselves mimic seizures, which can prevent individuals from receiving a proper diagnosis and effective treatment afterwards.

The most common sleep problems affecting individuals with epilepsy include nocturnal seizures and insomnia, sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue, and sleep apnea.