• Can sleep deprivation trigger seizures?

    by Lauren King, PsyD
    on Jul 28th, 2017

Seizures and Sleep

By Lauren King, Psy.D.



Can sleep deprivation trigger seizures? Yes. Changes to your sleep pattern can increase risk for seizures, otherwise known as decreasing the seizure threshold. Actually one of the most significant triggers to having a seizure is sleep deprivation, particularly in people with epilepsy.


Many people with seizure disorders have seizures while sleeping. Interestingly, there are certain types of seizure disorders that consist of seizures occurring exclusively during sleep. While you sleep, changes in the brain’s electrical and hormonal activity occur. Seizures affect the electrical system in your brain. These changes in the brain during sleep can be related to why some people have more seizures during sleep than other times. Individuals with sleep-related seizures often experience the seizure when there is a change in activity, from sleep to wake or from being awake to sleeping. Thus, sleep-related seizures are most likely to occur within the first 1 to 2 hours of sleep and within the first 1 to 2 hours of waking in the morning.


Better sleep makes it less likely that you will have seizures. Unfortunately, when individuals with a seizure disorder have a seizure during the day, their sleep may be interrupted that night. For individuals who have seizures in their sleep, they are significantly more fatigued the next day.


Overall, especially if you have a diagnosed seizure disorder, the goal is to get adequate sleep. You definitely want to avoid alcohol if you have a seizure disorder and are taking seizure medications. Alcohol intake at night can negatively affect your sleep quality and can lead to poor sleep.


Tips for individuals with sleep-related seizures:

  1. Sleep in a low bed with a padded headboard.
  2. Do not sleep in a bunk bed.
  3. Keep the area around your bed clear to prevent injury if you fall from the bed or if you fall immediately after getting out of bed.
  4. Consider using a safety mat on the floor next to the bed if you tend to have seizures around your time of sleep.
  5. Do not light candles or smoke in or beside the bed.
  6. Avoid alcohol consumption as heavy alcohol use is related to increased risk of seizures.

 If you need to be treated for sleeping disorders, please contact us at www.bluepointmed.com or call 703-385-8222 option 3.


Malow, B. A. (2004). Sleep Deprivation and Epilepsy. Epilepsy Currents, 4: 193–195.


Manford, M. (2003). Practical guide to epilepsy. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann.


Wassenaar, M., Kasteleijn-Nolst Trenité, D.G.A., de Haan, GJ. et al. (2014). Seizure precipitants in a community-based epilepsy cohort. Neurology, 261(4): 717. 










Author Lauren King, PsyD Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT-I Provider

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