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Epilepsy – Benefits of Sleep

November 17, 2021


I often tell people that sleep is made for the brain. During sleep, a couple of really important things happen to the brain. First, all the toxins that build up in the brain from all the work and thinking your brain has been doing all day long, gets removed. The second thing that happens during sleep is everything that you’ve learned throughout the day has the potential to be converted from short-term memory to long-term memory. At night, brain derived neurotrophic factor reorganizes your thoughts, builds new connections and networks, creates new neurons and repairs the brain, including damaged neurons and the other supporting cells. Sleep deprivation doesn’t only have a negative impact on the brain, but every part of the body suffers from a brain perspective. During the deeper stages of sleep is when neuroplasticity occurs and when healing takes place. Therefore it isn’t surprising that sleep, sleep disorders, and seizures interact on many levels. Sleep deprivation is widely accepted as a trigger for seizures. Sleep deprivation has been associated with the increased excitability of neurons. There have been studies that show that within the first four hours of sleep deprivation, EEGs show epileptiform discharges. Sleep disorders can impact how well someone’s seizures are controlled. Treating someone’s sleep disorder can significantly impact their epilepsy. While sleep deprivation alone can provoke a seizure, sleep deprivation in combination with stress skipping meals and alcohol use can have significant problems when it comes to managing seizures. So how much sleep is enough? We all need to be sleeping six to eight hours of sleep per night. Ultimately, the exact number of sleep needed is a very individualized thing. When you’re taking care of someone with seizures or epilepsy, don’t forget to talk to them about how much sleep they’re getting. If they have a sleep disorder, treat it. It may be as simple as making some small changes to their sleep hygiene, such as getting them to fall asleep at the same time every night, or removing the electronics from the bedroom, or even establishing a meditation routine to help them relax before bed. Helping people with epilepsy sleep is important to reducing their seizures and may even help them become seizure-free.

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