Epilepsy and sleep apnea are two dangerous conditions. Studies have long shown the hazards of both conditions. Now, new research suggests there may be some crossover between the two.
Research shows the harmful effects sleep apnea can have on various bodily systems including the brain. The reduced oxygen and lack of sleep often result in excessive daytime tiredness, difficulties with concentration and memory, higher irritability, and more. The sleep disorder also greatly impacts the heart, leading to high blood pressure and even heart disease.
When an individual is diagnosed with sleep apnea it’s recommended that they begin treatment immediately. Proper treatment can reverse the effects of the disorder.
Many individuals who suffer from epilepsy also have sleep apnea. Unfortunately, few physicians screen for the dangerous sleep disorder. The recent study indicates that treating sleep apnea may greatly benefit these individuals with epilepsy.
Poor sleep is a known risk factor when it comes to seizures and seizure frequency. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that frequently interrupts sleep. The interruptions are caused by brief pauses in breathing due to an obstructed airway. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea may not be aware of the interruptions as they are quite brief. However, sleep studies can show that they occur hundreds of times per night for some people.
Sleep apnea on its own is very problematic. However, people with neurological disorders face greater risk and challenges. It’s estimated that one in three individuals with epilepsy also suffer from sleep apnea. This combination can result in an increase in the frequency of seizures. This leads us to believe that sleep apnea testing and treatment are extremely important for those suffering from neurological disorders.
Once diagnosed, patients can begin treatment immediately. The most common form of treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a CPAP device. This device creates continuous positive airway pressure that flows through a mask. The flow of air helps prevent the airway from collapsing or becoming partially obstructed. Though effective, many patients struggle with CPAP therapy and choose to seek out other options.
Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea, many patients are eligible to undergo dental appliance therapy. This alternative treatment option helps keep the airway open using a custom made dental appliance.
The research studying the connection between sleep apnea and epilepsy focused on CPAP treatment. The study included 197 subjects diagnosed with epilepsy. Of the group, 122 individuals also suffered from sleep apnea. Out of 122 patients with both epilepsy and sleep apnea, 72 of them were being treated with a CPAP device.
The study was carried out over the course of a year. Those individuals undergoing CPAP therapy saw an astonishing 50 percent decrease in seizure frequency. This shows that treating sleep apnea provides a greater measure of seizure control than allowing the sleep disorder to go on undiagnosed and/or untreated.
The evidence is clear. Treating sleep apnea can greatly reduce seizure activity in patients with epilepsy. Unfortunately, sleep apnea isn’t always easy to identify and diagnose.
All individuals with epilepsy should undergo sleep disorder evaluation. Any sleeping disorder has the potential to increase seizure activity. If you suffer with epilepsy, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your sleeping habits, quality of sleep, and how you feel throughout the day.
Most individuals suffering from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders aren’t aware they have a serious health condition. This results in a severe lack of diagnosis and treatment for many individuals. In fact, in many cases the person with the condition doesn’t recognize the symptoms in themselves. It’s much more common for a spouse or partner to identify sleep apnea symptoms than it is for the individual themselves.
However, if you or a loved one suspects you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, then contact your doctor. After a discussion and health screening they may recommend you participate in a sleep study. This is the most effective way to accurately diagnose sleep disorders.
A sleep study is conducted at a sleep center, although there are some that can be done at home as well. These studies monitor a number of things including breathing, pulse, blood oxygen levels, bodily movement, and more. A sleep technician compiles the data for a sleep specialist and your doctor to evaluate.
Once they review the information collected from your sleep study they’ll work with you to create a treatment plan for your condition.
While CPAP therapy is very effective, it’s not the perfect option for everyone. Many individuals thrive and improve using a CPAP machine, however, other do not. This treatment option has a poor compliance rate for a number of reasons. Some patients complain that the machine is too loud, while others say it’s uncomfortable. It can also be difficult to travel with unless you purchase a second, smaller device.
Thankfully, depending on the severity of your condition, there are alternative treatment options. As mentioned above, you can speak with a dentist certified in sleep medicine. They can help you by creating a customized oral appliance to help prevent airway obstruction as you sleep.
Lifestyle choices can also make a difference with the condition. Sleep apnea can affect anyone, however your risk is greatly increased if you have a family history of the disorder or if you’re overweight. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can reduce symptoms over time. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating heavy meals prior to bed time along with alcohol or sedatives. These things can worsen sleep apnea.
Regardless of your treatment path, one thing is certain: treatment helps but only if follow your treatment plan. It’s important to stick with your treatment plan in order to see the continuous benefits. Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea respond quite well to treatment, but it’s an ongoing process. If you feel that your sleep apnea needs have changed over time then you can consult with your doctor to see if you’re eligible to change your course of treatment.
If you’d like to explore the option of using an oral appliance for treatment, consult with a qualified dental professional.