Sleep apnoea and epilepsy: is there a relationship?

What is the relationship between epilepsy and sleep apnoea?

In previous studies it has been shown that a greater number of people with epilepsy also experience sleep apnoea, than in the general population.

Researchers from Rutgers University wanted to develop a screening tool to detect sleep apnoea in patients with epilepsy as it is known that sleep apnoea can increase the number of seizures experienced.

As lead author, Martha Mulvey, of the Department of Neurology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said in a statement “Seizures can often be triggered by low oxygen levels that occur during obstructive sleep apnoea. Sleep deprivation and the interruption of sleep can therefore increase seizure frequency.”

The idea being that if people with epilepsy can be screened for their risk of sleep apnoea, then this condition may be treated so that their epilepsy can be better controlled.  By developing this tool, the researchers showed that they were able to diagnose a greater number of epilepsy patients with sleep apnoea than without the tool and this in turn should mean that more people will be able to control their epilepsy more effectively.

“We expected the tool for screening would increase the number of epileptic patients with sleep apnoea,” said study co-author Xue Ming. “We were surprised on the degree of the great difference (huge difference) between the number of sleep apnoea patients identified with and without the [use of the assessment tool].”

You can read more about the research here:

News categories