If you’re not sleeping well, your brain will be the first organ to suffer. There are some obvious effects you will likely notice right away: difficulty thinking, memory problems, and just trouble focusing. People with sleep apnea often feel that they aren’t getting enough rest, no matter how much time they’re spending sleeping.

But other effects are more gradual or less widespread that may nonetheless be very significant to you. There is a link between long-term cognitive decline, sleep apnea, and depression. And now a new study has underscored the strong connection between sleep apnea and epilepsy. The connection is so strong, that sleep apnea treatment is an effective method to reduce epileptic seizures.

The Link between Epilepsy and Sleep Apnea

man laying on his back, snoring loudly at nightPeople with epilepsy often have sleep disorders. However, determining the exact link between the two conditions is a challenge. First off, diagnosis of sleep disorders may be impaired by the way that sleep disorders and epileptic seizures may present with similar symptoms. And epileptic seizures may disrupt sleep in ways similar to some sleep disorders.

But one of the biggest obstacles to truly understanding the connection between these conditions is that patients don’t receive screening for sleep apnea as often as they should.

This means that many people are likely experiencing more sleep apnea seizures than they need to. Many people with epilepsy could experience significantly fewer seizures if they only had their sleep apnea treated. Now that you know the link between sleep apnea and seizures, you might look at epilepsy diagnosis differently.

High Prevalence of Sleep Apnea in Patients with Epilepsy

The new data comes from a study of 197 people with sleep apnea. All patients received a screening for sleep apnea at the beginning of the study, and 122 patients (62%) had sleep apnea. Then patients were followed for a year to see how sleep apnea treatment impacted their seizures.

Of the 122 patients with sleep apnea, only 73 used their CPAP every night (60%). Patients who used their CPAP were much more likely to see a dramatic improvement in their seizure control. More than 60% of patients who used CPAP saw a 50% reduction in seizures, compared to only 14% of those who didn’t use their CPAP.

From a subjective point of view, 85% of those using their CPAP felt they were able to get their seizures controlled “successfully,” compared to just 55% of those not using CPAP.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment Critical

The authors of this study were very clear about the implications of the study. Most important, they said, is that people with epilepsy must be screened for sleep apnea. The comorbidity of the two conditions makes it hard to get successful treatment when one is neglected.

But it’s also important to offer people with epilepsy more sleep apnea treatment options. Oral appliances could significantly help some people with epilepsy get their seizures under control. It would be important to find an oral appliance that was safe for use and wouldn’t cause a risk during seizures, but, if suitable, many people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to treat sleep apnea might see their improvement.

Does Sleep Apnea Cause Seizures?

Sleep apnea does not directly cause seizures. However, in patients who suffer from epilepsy, a sleep apnea condition can heighten the prevalence of seizures and make the condition worse. Unless you have an epilepsy diagnosis, you likely don’t need to worry about getting seizures from sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea and seizures only go hand in hand with epilepsy.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Sleep Apnea Dentist in San Jose

Are you concerned about the effects of sleep apnea on your mental and physical health? Please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with Los Gatos sleep dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental.