Experts estimate that about 2.7 million people in the US suffer from seizures. About 1/3 do not respond or respond poorly to anti-seizure medications. A new trend is to prescribe steroids as an anti-inflammatory medication based on the finding that people with seizures have more inflammation in the brain.
A New York Times article details the current research in the link between inflammation and seizures. As I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but think how may of these people with seizures have untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Numerous studies have shown a link between obstructive sleep apnea and seizures. In fact, sleep deprivation is known to lower your seizure threshold, meaning that you’re more likely to suffer epilepsy given your various risk factors. Other studies have shown significantly improved seizures after treating for obstructive sleep apnea.
We know from countless studies that obstructive sleep apnea causes major inflammation in the brain. This can be from hypoxia, micro strokes, small vessel clotting, and thickened blood viscosity. Yes, blocking inflammation (the end result) can seem to help, but you’re not really getting to the root cause of the problem. I’m not saying that all forms of seizures are caused by sleep-breathing disorders, but even if 25% have undiagnosed sleep apnea, that’s a very large number of people with epilepsy that can be treated.
I’ve written here before about seizures and sleep apnea. One thing that I notice is that the upper airway in patients with a seizure diagnosis is much more narrow than normal. Most of these patients prefer to sleep on their sides or stomach. This supports my theory that they are prone to breathing problems at night.
If you know anyone who has epilepsy, do they snore, or have parents that snore? Do they sleep on their back, side or stomach?