Epilepsy and sleep: Ways to get a good night’s rest


Our Helpline & Information Officer, Uschi Stickroth looks at a lack of sleep and how being tired is a common seizure trigger and ways to help improve your sleep.

Some triggers are common to many people with epilepsy. One such trigger is lack of sleep and being tired.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be more likely to have a seizure. Some types of seizures, like myoclonic seizures (sudden jerks of your arms, head or whole body), are more likely when a person is tired or just waking up.

If you find that being tired leads to more seizures, it is important to make sure you get plenty of sleep and avoid too many late nights.

If you have trouble sleeping, speak to your doctor. This could be a side effect of the anti-epileptic medication you take. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you something that will help you sleep.


Ways to get a good sleep

We all know how important it is to get a sound and restful sleep. There are different things you can try to help.

  • Go to sleep and get up at regular times to help your body establish a sleep pattern.Sleeping
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and kept at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid stimulating activities (like exercise), caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and chocolate late in the evening.
  • Find ways to relax if you feel stressed or anxious such as mediation or yoga.


Sleep seizures

Studies show that around 20% of seizures happen during sleep. People with sleep seizures will often have disturbed sleep and this in turn can increase the number of seizures that they have.

It is important to ensure that you get enough sleep if you have seizures during the night.

Also, it is important to remember that having sleep seizures may mean that you are more tired during the day.

It is also possible to have sleep seizures during the day if you are asleep.

Some employers are able to change start times at work for people with sleep seizures.

This is called a ‘reasonable adjustment’ and you employer needs to look at whether they can do this as part of the Equality Act.

Some people who work night shifts have trouble sleeping during the day.

Also, if you find that being tired is likely to trigger a seizure for you, avoid working night shifts.


Sleep Scotland

Sleep Scotland supports families of children and young people with an additional support need and severe sleep problems.

You can contact them on their support line on 0131 651 1392 Monday to Friday from 9.30am till 5pm.

Furthermore, Sleep Scotland run sleep clinics and have trained sleep counsellors on hand. These professionals will work with your family at a clinic or may be observing your child at home.

They will look at your child’s sleep history and any behaviour issues and may ask you to keep a sleep diary.

Also, sleep problems can be effectively treated using special techniques.

To find out more about how you can improve your sleep, please read our lack of sleep factsheet or call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.