Epilepsy is a condition that can be diagnosed in people of any age, from small children to the elderly. Around 1% of the population in the United States has experienced an unprovoked seizure or been diagnosed with epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Yet not everyone realizes how crucial a good night's sleep is to those diagnosed with epilepsy - and how epilepsy itself can make getting a good night's sleep difficult or impossible.

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For many people with epilepsy, their seizures are closely tied to their sleep/wake cycles. This is because the electrical activity within the brain during these changeover times tends to trigger seizures. Changes in the sleep/wake cycle, whether they're due to poor sleep, or seizures during sleep, can make it more likely for someone to have epileptic seizures.


If your child has had seizures or has been given a diagnosis of epilepsy, getting them properly evaluated by a pediatric sleep specialist is a must, especially if they experience uncontrolled seizures.


A pediatric sleep specialist can:

  • Rule out the possibility of seizures while your child is sleeping. Many people with epilepsy, both children and adults, experience many, or even all, of their seizures during sleep. Unfortunately, even if the patient isn't aware of them, these seizures disrupt the quality of their sleep, and can make seizures during wakeful times more likely. Often, an increase in nighttime seizures is the first sign that a medication is no longer working.
  • Rule out obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. OSA is a condition where the airway is not protected during sleep, and the patient stops breathing briefly, sometimes many times during the night. Even though the patient doesn't notice the problem, this can lead to daytime exhaustion and difficulty concentrating. A study at the University of Michigan suggested that as many as a third of epilepsy patients also have obstructive sleep apnea.Treating sleep apnea and getting a better night's rest may help improve epilepsy symptoms. 
  • Make sure that your child is getting a good night's sleep. When the University of Calgary in Canada compared the sleep quality of children with epilepsy to that of their non-epileptic siblings, they found that the epileptic children had vastly more sleep disturbances than their siblings. They also found that the epileptic children were more likely to experience behavior problems and social difficulties in school, and were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

While antiepileptic medicines are of course a crucial part of treating epilepsy, especially in children, it’s important to note that some epilepsy medications can disturb sleep as well. It’s important to take any complaints of exhaustion, tiredness, or any increase in hyperactivity in a child with epilepsy seriously, and speak to their doctor to make sure they are on the best medication for them. When children need two or more antiepileptic medications to control their seizures, they have as much as a 40% chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which can further degrade their sleep and cause further issues. 


If your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy, or has had a seizure, having a complete sleep evaluation with a pediatric sleep specialist is an important part of deciding the best way to treat their condition and set them up for a long, happy life. Contact us today to schedule your child’s first appointment.