Epilepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Whether you are the individual who experiences them or are the person who witnesses them, seizures are frightening. During a seizure or convulsion, the body shakes violently and the person gets a blank stare on his or her face. Depending on the severity, the sufferer can also lose consciousness. All symptoms can be attributed to an increase in the electrical activity of the brain. When consistent and recurrent seizures occur, the individual is said to have epilepsy, which is classified as a neurological disorder. Seizures can be mild, and short in duration accompanied by nothing more than the blank look, or they can be severe, lasting minutes with severe muscle contractions. For some, there is a pre-warning that a seizure will occur, that is to say, they experience an aura.
How Many People Have Epilepsy?
It is estimated by the National Institutes of Health that epilepsy affects less than a half percent of Americans. However, anywhere from 1.5 to 5 percent have or will experience a seizure during the course of their life. Most people with epilepsy can control their seizures with medication.
Unfortunately, there is no known cause of epilepsy but it can be present in families so there is a genetic component. Anything that can affect the brain, such as strokes or tumors, can prompt seizures. Most people with epilepsy can control the incidence of their seizures with medication that’s the good news. The bad news is that many epileptic medications negatively impact sleep.
With that being said, is there a connection between sleep and epilepsy? Although we are not conscious enough per se to be aware, when we sleep our brains do function. There is electrical activity and in turn, epileptic seizures can occur. Apparently seizures occur most often during slow wave sleep. During the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, the incidence of seizures drops.
The occurrence of a seizure during sleep does not mean that the person wakes up. In fact, many individuals do not, and thus face next-day sleepiness and fatigue, similar to the symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with OSA have disrupted breathing at night when they sleep, which is caused by an obstruction in their airway. Some of the other symptoms of OSA are: lack of concentration, poor memory, snoring and mood disturbances.
Back in 2000, researchers at the University of Michigan uncovered the following: 33 percent of people with epilepsy also had OSA. Published in Neurology, their study results also demonstrated that test subjects with both epilepsy and OSA had a higher incidence of seizures at night.
Whether you have epilepsy or OSA, it is always important to alert your physician about any unusual symptoms you might be experiencing.
If you are wondering whether or not your epilepsy might be affecting your sleep or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation when it’s convenient for you.