You might think that having a seizure in bed would be quite safe. You generally don’t fall, don’t walk into traffic or are not confused or disoriented among strangers during sleep. But having a seizure during sleep can occasionally present other dangers:

  • Dangerous objects near the bed can cause injury.
  • Prolonged seizures that need medical attention may go unnoticed.
  • Vomit or other fluids may go into the lungs instead of the stomach if the person is not rolled onto one side.
  • A person who has a seizure face down in bed may suffocate.

A very small number of adults with epilepsy experience Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). Many people who die suddenly are found in bed. Sometimes there is no clear sign of a seizure, but studies seem to suggest that being face down in the bedding may be a factor. SUDEP is even more rare in children.

What's the solution?

  • To lessen the risk of seizures or injury at night, work hard to get the best seizure control you can.
  • Make sure you take seizure medications the way your health care provider has recommended. If you aren’t sure how or when to take the, ask!
  • Learn what to do if you forget a dose of medicines. Don’t just skip them and forget about it.
  • Refill your pills as soon as you can. Don’t let them run out unexpectedly.
  • If your seizures continue despite taking medicines regularly, ask your doctor about other treatments.
  • If seizures tend to occur only during sleep, ask your health care team if the times you take seizure medicines should be changed. For example, sometimes taking the larger dose or all of the medicine at night may help.
  • Tell your doctor if you have problems falling asleep or waking up a lot. You may be having seizures at night, a sleep disorder, or problems with your mood.  Not sleeping well at night can worsen seizure control for many people.

Ways of preventing injury from seizures during sleep include:

  • Remove sharp or potentially dangerous objects from near the bed.
  • If there's a danger of falling out of bed, try sleeping on a futon, other low bed, or put a mattress on the floor. Pads can also be placed on the floor next to the bed.
  • Limit the number of pillows used so they don’t get in the way at night.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Share a bedroom or have someone nearby who can help if a seizure occurs.
  • Some people place a monitor in the room so a person can hear if a seizure occurs at night.
  • Look into seizure alert or detection devices. They may be able to detect when a seizure occurs and alert someone, or call for help.
    • Smart Monitor is one that can detect repeated shaking during a seizure and may help people with tonic clonic seizures.
    • Others are being developed so stay tuned.




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Authored By: 
Steven C. Schachter, MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Authored Date: 
Thursday, November 7, 2013