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Epilepsy and Sleep Quality: Are They Related?

July 13, 2022

By Amber Kaiser 

Seizures and sleep quality go hand-in-hand for a lot of people with epilepsy. Our brains are actually very active while sleeping—especially while in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and there is research showing that sleep plays an important role in seizures. In fact, some studies have shown that too much or too little REM sleep can increase the risk of seizures by over 25%. 

Seizures during sleep are a particular concern for people with epilepsy, especially because Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) tends to strike when a person with epilepsy is sleeping. Studies have shown that having nocturnal tonic-clonic seizures can indicate a 15-fold higher risk of SUDEP.

Given this complex relationship between sleep and seizures, it’s important to manage your sleep, stress, and insomnia to get the best night’s sleep possible. For more peace of mind, there are sleep-monitoring solutions available, including Neureka® Sleep.

Read below to learn more!

Stress, Medications & Insomnia Can Affect Your Sleep

Stress is a very common seizure trigger, and for people who have nocturnal seizures like myself, good sleep and keeping your stress levels low as much as possible can potentially help with reducing your seizures while sleeping. Stress can also lead to insomnia, so it’s important to manage your sleep hygiene.

What’s challenging is that for many people, certain antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) cause insomnia, which can lead to poor sleep and more seizures for some people. This can sometimes defeat the purpose of AEDs in the first place, and can be a vicious cycle for someone with nocturnal seizures. In these cases, sometimes trying an additional supplement of high-quality CBD oil can help with sleep. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend reading our recent post about CBD and epilepsy.

If your medication is disrupting your sleep, you can also try working with your doctor to find a better AED, yet I also understand switching these kinds of psychotropic drugs isn't easy at all. Speaking from experience, it can take weeks, even months to slowly wean yourself off of your current medication while slowly building up on a new medication, and each medication has a set of their own withdrawal symptoms and side-effects. In fact, the side-effects you experience during these trials affect your brain, body, and therefore, your everyday life in so many ways that a lot of people try to avoid switching AEDs if at all possible. Be sure to talk to your doctor before switching medications and getting on the right treatment for you.

If it is safe for you, other things you can try include exercise, relaxing meditation, a quiet and comfortable environment, and high-quality CBD products to help you relax and hopefully experience better sleep.

For more information on sleep and epilepsy, as well as finding the right amount of sleep for you, check out this short video and article from Epilepsy Foundation.

Peace of Mind with Neureka® Sleep

As you’ve been learning here, stress levels, sleep quality and AEDs all work together and can either contribute to more seizures or less seizures. Neureka® can help you manage your medications as well as track your sleep quality and insomnia.

If you haven’t already tried it, I recommend our new Neureka® Sleep system, which monitors your sleep health. You just wear a soft ring on your thumb or index finger while sleeping and this tracks your health metrics, including heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, and motion. If something potentially abnormal is detected, your emergency contact will immediately receive a call or text alert. When you wake up and are coherent enough to realize you had a seizure and can safely move your body and request help, you can also press an emergency help button on the sleep-monitoring tablet. At this time, we can’t say that the system detects any particular seizures; however, it does detect when your health metrics are fluctuating and will automatically notify your emergency contact.

Speaking from my own experience, wearing the ring can help you feel safer whenever you sleep, and it also provides important data to share with your doctor.

We also just announced some exciting news about acquiring a FDA-approved system that detects tonic-clonic seizures and this creates even more opportunity for us to provide convenient seizure-monitoring services and care at home for our epilepsy community. We will continue keeping you updated!

Do you have any questions or want to share your experience with sleep and epilepsy as well? Feel free to email us at hello@neureka.ai and stay connected with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram!

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