Facts about Sleep Seizures

Sleep is a vital time of rest for humans, and when rest is interrupted because of sleep seizures there are other complications that could occur as a result.  As if having epilepsy is not difficult enough, spending the day feeling lethargic, drowsy and generally not well makes it even more unpleasant.

A seizure occurs when there is an increase in electrical activity in the brain.  When an individual suffers from frequent and persistent seizures, or convulsions (as they are also known), they are afflicted with a condition called epilepsy.  The causes of this disorder are largely unknown, but can be the result of head injuries, brain infections, drug or alcohol abuse or even low blood sugar.  It can also be inherited.  Though there are no cures for epilepsy, it is easily controlled with medications.  

One of the most troubling aspects of epilepsy is the effect it has on sleep.  Seizures caused by epilepsy that occur during the night are common, as sleep seems to trigger the electrical responses that are responsible for them.  In fact, some individuals with epilepsy experience their convulsions almost solely during their sleep cycles, never even realizing that they are occurring.  The only evidence may be their fatigue experienced throughout their daytime hours.  On the reverse side of the problem is that fact that those who are being medically treated for epilepsy find that the drugs lead to sleep disruption.  Lack of sleep also serves as a trigger for seizures. 

When an individual experiences sleep seizures, an assortment of symptoms may take place.  Most people associate a seizure with convulsions, but they are not always present with them.  Because a seizure is the result of the inappropriate discharge of the electric energy of certain brain cells, the responses will depend upon which cells are being activated.  There are specific cells that are involved with the sense of smell while others with the sense of taste; some cells affect vision while others affect muscle control.  When the cells that are directly associated with smell or taste are those which are inordinately activated, the individual may experience odd and unpleasant tastes or smells.  When the cells that affect vision are triggered, perception of what is seen is likely distorted in some manner.  Those which are involved with muscle control create the result that most people are familiar with and associate with epilepsy; jerking of the muscles and limbs.  

Depending upon which of these cells are stimulated into activity, the symptoms that are experienced will differ.  Sleep is often the time period that seizures will occur, possibly due to the fact that the brain relaxes at this time.  If the reactions are mild, such as twitching of the muscles or mild convulsing, the individual may not awaken fully during the episode.  Their only indication that a seizure may have happened is their sensation of tiredness and sluggishness during their waking hours.  In other cases, there may be distinct signs that an episode had occurred; leakage of urine, aching muscles from strong body convulsions and bite marks on the inner cheeks or even tongue. 

One method of determining whether or not sleep seizures are taking place is to enroll in a sleep study program.  A clinic that is accredited and knowledgeable in seizures is necessary, as well as one that possesses the ability to perform EEG monitoring.  While a cause cannot be attributed to the condition, it is possible to determine the electrical responses and then begin a course of medication to control the seizures.

Sleep is an essential part of life; a time for the body to restore and revitalize.  Coping with epilepsy can be enough of a trial in life; getting quality sleep can help to make life more normal and enjoyable.