Good sleep is essential for people with epilepsy to avoid seizures. So much so that according to scientific evidence, sleep deprivation along with stress and the menstrual cycle are the main factors that can precipitate an episode.
According to Spanish Federation of Sleep Medicine Societies (FESMES)sleep deprivation acts as a driver of crises in 30% of people with epilepsy, a disease whose International Day is commemorated today, February 13, and which is characterized by a continued predisposition to appearance of episodes accompanied by cognitive, psychological and social neurobiological consequences.
Its prevalence in Europe is 0.7%, which means about six million inhabitants, which in Spain total between 300,000 and 400,000, and in the world it has an incidence rate of 61.44 people for every 100,000 inhabitants in the year, according to figures from the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN).
The Spanish Epilepsy Federation (Fede) provides similar data, around 350,000 people, of which 29,000 are under the age of 15, although it indicates on its website that there is no official register of patients, so the prevalence is almost 0.8 % of the total population (8 cases per 1,000 inhabitants).
More figures from the SEN: Life expectancy is reduced between 2 and 10 years with a mortality rate two to three times higher than that of the general population; the total cost of epilepsy in Europe is 20 billion euros per year.
In addition, la World Health Organization (WHO) it indicates, in the measurement of the global burden of disease in the world, that epilepsy is the second neurological pathology in years of life potentially lost or lived with disability.
Try to keep regular schedules
FESMES provides two pieces of advice that it considers basic to control epileptic seizures and which are, on the one hand, to try to maintain regular sleep schedules and, on the other, to try not to sleep less than seven hours a night.
“If it can be eight, even better”, he points out the vice president of FESMES, Carles Gaig.
In this sense, Gaig, who is a neurologist at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, states that it is “very common” in the Emergency Department that young people arrive at weekends who have suffered epileptic seizures after having gone out partying the night before . Something, however, that is absolutely normal at these ages, he adds.
For this reason, the neurologist insists in a statement that patients with this disease and, “especially” those with drug-resistant epilepsy, must pay special attention to maintaining good sleep hygiene.
Patients suffer from more sleep disorders
FESMES also points out that several investigations have shown that patients with epilepsy suffer more sleep disorders. In fact, it indicates that almost half (between 40% and 50%) have insomnia. 41% refer to poor sleep quality, when in the general population the percentage drops to 18.
In addition, up to 16% may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the complete or partial interruption of breathing for more than ten seconds and is usually accompanied by a decrease in oxygen saturation. This disorder prevents restful sleep, causing daytime sleepiness and chronic fatigue, among others.
In this way, the fact that an epileptic patient also has obstructive apnea can cause sleep to be disturbed and more fragmented and can worsen epilepsy control.
“Many times, simply by treating the apneas appropriately, the epilepsy improves”, assures the vice-president of FESMES.
One in four has excessive sleepiness
And it is that excessive sleepiness during the day affects almost one in four patients, when in the rest of the population the prevalence ranges between 7% and 17%.
On this point, Gaig clarifies that sleepiness is often due to the adverse effects of antiepileptic drugs. “It’s not that epilepsy itself makes them sleepy,” adds the expert.
He also points out that most patients have epilepsy crises during the day, although other, less frequent ones tend to manifest themselves at night during sleep, in the form of abnormal behaviors or movements.