F. Gokcem Yildiz, F. Irsel Tezer, Serap Saygi. Epilepsy & Behavior 48(2015) 1-3

Sleep is a very important issue for people with epilepsy. Sleep deprivation may make a person more likely to have a seizure. A number of studies have also noted that sleep disorders may occur more often in people with epilepsy, but not enough information is known about types of epilepsy and sleep disorders. Having a sleep disorder like sleep apnea can result in poor quality of sleep and other problems that aggravate seizures. Since sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) occurs most often at night, understanding more about sleep and seizures is critical.


This study evaluated how often symptoms of sleep disorders happened in people with refractory temporal lobe or extratemporal lobe epilepsy.

Description of Study

Adults who had been admitted to an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) and were diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy or epilepsy arising from areas outside of the temporal lobe (called extratemporal lobe epilepsy) were included in the study.

  • 189 adults participated in the study.
    • 53.4% or 101 people had temporal lobe epilepsy
    • 46.6% or 88 people had extratemporal lobe epilepsy.
  • Everyone in the study had seizures that did not respond to medications (called refractory epilepsy).
  • After admission to the EMU, people completed a questionnaire about sleep and symptoms of sleep disorders. The questionnaire included items about sleep quality and outcomes, daytime sleepiness, and symptoms of sleep apnea.

Summary of Study Findings

  • People with temporal lobe epilepsy scored higher on questions about sleep apnea than people with extratemporal epilepsy. This suggests that people with temporal lobe epilepsy in this study had a higher risk of sleep apnea.
  • There were no significant differences between people with temporal lobe epilepsy or extratemporal lobe epilepsy on measures about sleep quality, sleep outcomes, or daytime sleepiness.

What does this mean? 

  • People with refractory temporal lobe epilepsy may be at higher risk for sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing problems.
  • It is important to note that while formal sleep studies were not done in the study, the results indicate symptoms of sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing problems. These types of problems could be related to breathing problems before or after a seizure, side effects of medicines, a sleep disorder, or other reasons.
  • Sleep questionnaires may help identify people at risk for sleep apnea based on their reported symptoms. 
  • Identifying possible sleep disorders early could lead to better treatment of seizures as well as sleep.
  • Sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing problems are associated with decreases or drops in oxygen levels during sleep. Since breathing difficulties or low oxygen levels could affect a person’s risk for SUDEP, then knowing about this and treating apnea and other breathing issues may potentially lower a person’s risk for SUDEP. 

Abstract: July 2015

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, July 2015

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