Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

Sleep Apnea and Seizures: Can OSA Cause Seizures?

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Sep 18, 2020

Man sleeping soundly in his bed at home-1

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a serious condition that affects a much larger number of people than many realize. In fact, in the 1990s, it was shown to affect 24% of men in the United States and 9% of the women in the country. Today, with the rate of obesity being even higher, there is a good chance that the number of people who are suffering from this condition has increased. Sleep apnea and seizures can be a huge problem, as well.

Does Lack of Sleep Caused by Sleep Apnea Affect Seizures?

OSA sleep disorder can make it difficult for people to get a good night’s sleep. They will often wake up exhausted, and this can cause problems for those who are dealing with neurological disorders, such as epilepsy. Those who do not get enough sleep will often have higher instances of seizures. Therefore, finding ways to treat the OSA could be beneficial for those with sleep apnea and seizures.

Some of the most common methods of helping to treat OSA include lifestyle modification and weight loss. These changes could help patients to get control of their sleep so they were no longer sleep deprived. However, many patients also needed to utilize other types of treatment for a better and faster effect. Namely, many patient's use positive airway pressure devices.

Studies have shown that untreated OSA could contribute to seizures. One of the recent studies, which was conducted on 130 adults who had epilepsy found that there was a “30% prevalence of OSA, and a 15% prevalence of moderate to severe OSA”.

Can PAP help?

Some studies have found that there were positive changes with the use of positive airway pressure, or PAP, for those who had upper airway surgery. However, it is important to keep in mind that the number of patients in those studies is quite small, and it is difficult to confirm just how beneficial those treatments were for the patients.

Another study, this one from the Cleveland Clinic, decided that it would use the retrospective review approach as a means to get a better understanding. They looked at adult patients with epilepsy who had polysomnography at the clinic between 1997 and 2010. They further divided the patients into three groups – patients without OSA, patients with PAP-treated OSA, and those with untreated OSA.

What they found from the retrospective study of 132 patients was that those who received PAP therapy had a good outcome in many cases. While the results may not have been overly remarkable, it did make a case for PAP working to help with sleep apnea and seizures.

There is a need for more study in this area so researchers can understand the relationship of epilepsy and sleep comorbidities better. Those who have epilepsy should make sure that they undergo routine screenings for OSA to see if that might be aggravating their condition. Many feel that seizure control should be added to the benefits of treating OSA.



Topics: Causes of Seizures