Epilepsy and seizures

Overview

Epilepsy is a neurological condition caused abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This activity can cause seizures, particularly in the early morning and during transition in and out of light sleep.

Epilepsy is the third most common neurological condition in Australia (stroke and Alzheimer’s disease are the first two). Epilepsy is characterised by abnormal electrical brain discharges, and these are often associated with undesirable motor, verbal, experiential or cognitive consequences. Frequent epileptic discharges can cause a seizure or convulsion.

Epileptic events can occur at any time of day, including during sleep. Some patients with epilepsy have seizures only at night-time. It is also well known that sleep-deprivation increases the risk of epileptic events in patients with this condition.

Epileptic events during sleep occur most commonly during non-REM (non-dreaming) sleep, and are unusual during Rapid Eye Movement (REM; dreaming) sleep.

Diagnosis

Electroencephalography (EEG) is the measurement of brainwaves, and is used to detect epileptic brain patterns. These tests are often performed during the day. However, SNORE Australia is able to perform prolonged EEGs in parallel with an overnight sleep-study in patients suspected of having nocturnal epilepsy or seizures, and to assess the efficacy of treatment.

Treatment

The treatment for epilepsy is usually with medication. Treatment is individualised, depending on age and the type of epilepsy present. There are also several behavioural modifications which can help (such as avoiding sleep-deprivation, monitoring alcohol-consumption and strictly avoiding illicit substances).