Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seizure Disorder and Lack of Sleep

A seizure disorder is when there is a miscommunication in the brain’s nerve cells that causes a loss of consciousness and makes the body jerk and twitch. Although many may only have one seizure in their lifetime, some have seizures over and over again which is known as the condition called epilepsy. There is no known single cause for epilepsy but there are many factors that may contribute to the cause such as a head injury, trauma or high fever, baby shaking syndrome, toxic chemicals, large doses of certain drugs, stroke, tumors or other disease that alter the balance of the brain’s chemical structure. When the condition can be determined by any factor that may cause seizures it  is known as Symptomatic Epilepsy, if not it is called Idiopathic Epilepsy.

[caption id="attachment_601" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Seizure Disorder and Lack of Sleep - Head Injury"][/caption]

Other diseases or disorders include that may cause a seizures are; AIDS, malaria, rabies, tetanus, and viral encephalitis; hypothyroidism; high levels of sugar or sodium in the blood; low levels of sugar, calcium, magnesium, or sodium in the blood; kidney or liver failure or lupus. Seizure disorder is generally not inherited, but may run in families suggesting there is a faulty genetic code. It may be the result of a virus or infection such as meningitis or in rare circumstances mumps or measles, but it is not contagious.

Seizures can be triggered by an interruption in someone’s sleep/wake cycle, flashing lights, loud noises, monotonous sounds or even certain musical notes. Girls age 6-12 are known to have seizures caused by flashing lights or Photosensitive Epilepsy, but it can occur at any age or gender. People with a seizure disorder should have their meals at the same time each day (see Kinetic Diet below) and be aware of drug interactions with other medicines.

Seizure disorder and lack of sleep due to interrupted sleep/wake cycles can trigger a seizure. In fact, those with epilepsy are at risk for sleep disorders due to a delayed effect on REM and can trigger a seizure while sleeping. Sleep disorders on nights with a seizure the individual may have less sleep than required, reduced REM sleep, difficulty in falling asleep easy and increased stage-2 NREM sleep time (deep sleep). Even on nights without a seizure these people may have more sleep disruptions than those without epilepsy, including periodic wakefulness, the different duration in sleep cycles and the number of sleep cycles.

Seizures can be caused by low blood sugar levels as a result of diet or drugs like insulin. This type of seizure is not epilepsy since it is not recurring due to abnormal brain activity. In 1984, The Centre of Disease Control in Atlanta did a report stating that Aspartame can lower the seizure threshold and increase seizure activity. Another study by Queen’s University looked at the brain-wave pattern of children and the effects of artificial sweeteners. They found a 40% increase in abnormal brain-wave activity associated with absence seizures were found in the study. Research is continuing.

How do you know if you are going to have a seizure? Many people experience a sensation before having a seizure. These sensations can be an abnormal smell or taste and/or visual disturbances. Most seizures last between two to five minutes and leave the person feeling tired and confused without any recall of the experience except for a headache and sore muscles. If a person experiences reoccurring seizures and left untreated the seizures can eventually last longer. This type of seizure is called grand mal or tonic-clonic seizers. Seizure disorders are diagnosed with an electroencephalogram (EEG) along with blood tests to check sugar levels, calcium and sodium levels, liver and kidney function, white blood count also a MRI or computer tomography (CT) to measure heart rhythm and look for signs of cancer, brain tumors or damage to brain tissue. A spinal tap may be performed to test for brain infection.

If you or someone you know has a seizure, loosen clothing, remove sharp objects and get to a safe place to lie down to prevent any harm until the episode passes. Usually only those that have reoccurring seizures are on anti-seizure medications as these medications need to be controlled by a doctor to insure the dose is monitored to avoid or reduce side effects. Side effects include sluggishness, dizziness, hyperactivity, uncontrolled eye movements, speech or vision problems, nausea or vomiting or sleeping problems. Under dire circumstances is surgery recommended to remove the part of the brain that is affected.

You can help prevent seizures by following a healthy diet and try to keep your stress levels to a minimum. While a good night’s sleep plays a key role in the overall well-being and health of all people, it is even more vital for people with a seizure disorder. One reason why lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can increase the frequency of seizures, why is unclear. However, we do know that the sleep/wake cycle is associated with the changes in the brain’s activities, so seizures and the sleep/wake cycles are often clearly associated. Also, there are hormonal changes during sleep that could possibly be related to seizures. Finally, the side effects of anti-seizure medications and the quality and quantity of sleep can make the situation more complicated.

Other ways research has shown that a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates called the Ketogenic Diet may reduce the number of seizers or has prevented seizures in one of three that have tried it. This diet is not something you could consider as a simple change in lifestyle but a committed form of treatment like other therapies can have side effects. It must be carefully monitored by a physician or dietitian as it is a more strict diet that measures the amounts of calories, fluid and proteins a person can eat daily. Ketogenic means that it is produced in the body and the use of fats it uses as a source of energy. Since the body uses carbohydrates for fuel it has to adjust to fats as its primary fuel instead. More likely doctors recommend this diet for children other than adults and studies are underway to modify the Atkins diet for this population that has seizures.

Foods in the Ketogenic Diet consist basically of butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise and oils. The amounts of carbohydrates and proteins in the diet are restricted and it is very important that everything taken internally is monitored as toothpaste (bubblegum) has sugar in it. Side effects include feeling sluggish when first starting diet, kidney stones, high cholesterol levels, dehydration, constipation, weak bones and weight gain. This diet does not provide all the minerals and vitamins a person needs to supplements are recommended especially calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium and folic acid. If the seizures have been controlled for a period of two years the diet can be eliminated slowly, but anti-seizure medication is usually continued.

[caption id="attachment_602" align="alignright" width="209" caption="Seizure Disorder and Lack of Sleep - Courtney & Family"][/caption]

Since anti-seizure medication can affect the quality of sleep at night it may be beneficial to take it in the early morning. Don’t take any sedating antihistamines as they may worsen sleep quality and epilepsy. Generally a safe alternative to help aide sleep is melatonin which is available over the counter at your local health food store, pharmacy or grocery store. Melatonin keeps our circadian cycle in tune as it communicates with the body’s cells. Not only does this time keeper work to maintain cell health, it appears to regulate a system of self-repair and regeneration. When this hard-working hormone is diminished, our biological functions are impaired. Many people use melatonin to help improve sleep. Studies have found that melatonin increases the speed of falling asleep and adds to the quality of sleep in about 60% of people who use it.

With any supplement and especially for those with a medical condition, it is advised to consult with your doctor before taking. Treating a sleep disorder greatly improves the life of those with a seizure disorder. The content provided in Seizure Disorder and Lack of Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Courtney, due to a head injury at the age of 20, she now suffers from seizures. I love you.
GLG America Logo

1 comment:

  1. Thats a very important and educative write up on seizure and Lack of sleep. I am very sorry about Courtney. I equally have someone dear to me suffering from seizure due to head injury sustained from a car accident. With constant medication, the seizure was almost cured for 3 years until last year when it resurrected and most recently (2 months ago) caused lack of sleep and frequent attack. We are still trying to have it controlled. Can i have your contact email? i am sure we have a lot to discuss and share from our experience and in due cause explore possible solutions. Thank you.