Sleep is critical to healthy brain function. If you aren’t getting good sleep, your brain will suffer a number of different types of dysfunction. We’ve often pointed to the risk of cognitive decline associated with sleep apnea, but one area that doesn’t receive enough attention is epilepsy. Sleep apnea is commonly associated with epilepsy, and now a new study shows that treating sleep apnea helps control epileptic seizures, helping people be healthier and more functional despite epilepsy.
The Link between Epilepsy and Sleep Apnea
Sleep disorders are very common among people with epilepsy. It’s hard to determine exactly how the conditions are linked for many reasons. First, sleep disorders are sometimes confused with epilepsy, because some of these sleep disorders may mimic epileptic seizures. And sometimes epilepsy or epilepsy treatments may disrupt your sleep, leading to symptoms that mimic sleep disorders. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to understanding the link between the conditions is that most doctors just don’t make the connection. People with epilepsy aren’t regularly screened for sleep apnea, as they should be.
And this is important, because, as this new research shows, treatment of sleep apnea can significantly improve epilepsy.
High Prevalence of Sleep Apnea
This study enrolled just under 200 people with epilepsy. At the beginning of the study, all patients were screened for sleep apnea, and 122 of the 197 patients enrolled had sleep apnea (62%). All patients were monitored for a year to see how their seizure control progressed. Over this year, 73 of the patients with sleep apnea used their CPAP machine every night (60%), while the remainder did not. The patients who were using CPAP saw a much greater improvement in their seizures. More than 60% of those using CPAP saw a 50% or greater drop in seizures. Only 14% of those who didn’t use CPAP saw that same benefit.
CPAP also helped patients really get control of their seizures. Of those that used CPAP, 85% were able to get successful seizure control. Only 55% of those not using CPAP were able to achieve this level of control.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment Critical
This study reminds us just how important sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment is for people with conditions like epilepsy. Treatment of sleep apnea leads to direct benefits for people experiencing regular seizures. The more people that can get treatment for their sleep apnea, the better our treatment results will be for related conditions.
This study also shows how important it is to have treatment options besides CPAP. With only CPAP offered, 40% of study participants weren’t able to get the benefit of sleep apnea treatment because they didn’t use their CPAP machine. Oral appliances could help some of those people to get their sleep apnea (and their epilepsy) under control. However, it would be necessary to find a sleep appliance that is appropriate to their condition and wouldn’t create risks during potential nighttime seizures.
If you want to learn more about sleep apnea treatment options and how they could potentially help with heart disease, epilepsy, and other health conditions, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.