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Raising Awareness For Sleep Apnea Treatment To Reduce Seizures In Epilepsy

Because sleep habits have an affect on so many of our body’s systems, comorbidity or co-occurring disorders are common. One pair of conditions that show evidence of being related are sleep apnea and epilepsy.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea, also called sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a condition where you have interruptions or pauses in your breathing while you sleep. Have you ever heard someone snoring and then notice it seems like they aren’t breathing? Then one loud gasp or snore (like a snorting sound) jolts them back into normal breathing again?

As you sleep, the muscles around your throat and neck area relax which reduces the size of your windpipe. This means that you may not be getting enough oxygen which is called oxygen desaturation. When the pause in breathing occurs, your body tells your brain to interrupt your sleep by activating those muscles to stiffen and open your windpipe. This is what causes the choking sound as someone returns to normal breathing.

When someone has sleep apnea, they can also have symptoms like headaches in the morning, trouble with concentration or mood, and sleepiness throughout the day. The troubles significantly worsen with increased risk for heart attack or heart failure, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity with those diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, not everyone obtains a diagnosis since we don’t all know what happens to us while we’re asleep. Paying attention to our sleep partners or family’s sleeping habits and symptoms plays such a huge role in identifying those who may be at risk.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that results in recurring seizures that can range in duration, type, and frequency. Doctors and scientists classify seizures into motor or non-motor types where a person either moves uncontrollably or they have absence seizures with no movement. A brain injury or genetic tendencies could cause these seizures, but typically, the source is not known.

Why are sleep apnea and epilepsy related?

A good portion of those who have epilepsy also have sleep apnea, about 40%. Of those, 16% have a moderate to severe form. The relationship exists because those who have epilepsy are at higher risk for obesity due to often having a more sedentary lifestyle. Patients are often unable to work or drive a car. There is also the side effect of weight gain from anti-seizure medications which leads to obesity. Not getting enough or not having quality sleep can lead to an increased frequency of seizures which results in negative health cycle of cause and effect that is difficult to alleviate without some kind of clinical intervention.

What does the latest research show?

Fortunately, there does seem to be hope. One researcher found in her latest study that treating sleep apnea in patients with epilepsy significantly reduced seizures. After one year of treatment, successful outcome as measured by reduced or no seizures, was recorded more often (85%) for epilepsy patients who received sleep apnea treatment than for those who did not. The researcher is Dr. Thapanee Somboon, and she is a research fellow at the Sleep Disorder Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Somboon’s findings were presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s annual conference.

The results are significant as they add to a growing body of work on the topic which could help doctors and neurologists be more aware of sleep apnea as a trigger of seizures. This can be particularly in those who haven’t responded to medications or other treatment which can be up to 30% of all patients.

Despite the relationship between seizures and sleep apnea becoming more well-known, there are still some epilepsy patients who have never been asked about their sleep habits by their doctors. A simple in-office questionnaire to identify those at risk for sleep apnea may be all that is needed to get someone on the right path for sleep apnea treatment like CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines to reduce or even remove their seizures. Many neurologists may be surprised to find the degree to which epilepsy improvements are found with sleep therapy.

While additional studies must be performed on various populations to continue to quantify this work, results to date should encourage those who suffer from seizures. In an effort to improve quality of life and perhaps help those with epilepsy return to work, doctors and family members of those with epilepsy should consider a sleep study to identify any sleep conditions which could be contributing to negative health outcomes.

8 of the Best Apps for Insomnia and Sleep

We talk an awful lot about why it’s important to get enough quality sleep each night, for reasons that range to pleasantly beneficial to physiologically necessary. And most people don’t really need to be sold on the idea; most of us know we don’t get enough sleep and wish we could get more. If only it were that easy, right? We’re fully aware that you might want to sleep more in theory, but that in practice, there are such things as crying babies, college exams, restless brains, and any number of other reasons that make getting enough sleep a real challenge. Fortunately, we are in the age of the App. Nifty little tools to help us track, monitor, manage, and modify pretty much anything, and that includes our sleep habits. Continue reading

Remembering Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher and the Hidden Dangers of Sleep Apnea

When Carrie Fisher passed away last year, her death left a lot of people shocked and more than a little devastated; she was well loved for her role as the fierce and capable Princess Leia — and later, General Leia — in the Star Wars franchise and, as an outspoken and honest advocate for mental health and addiction recovery. Two weeks ago, her fans and family finally got some answers as to what could have claimed her life at such a young age. Among the contributing factors was sleep apnea, a term most people may never have even heard prior to the release of her autopsy report on June 16. Continue reading

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Hey CPAP Users: Meet the Pillow of Your Dreams

What’s The Ultimate Pillow? It’s a uniquely shaped pillow made of quality, ventilated memory foam that makes it a whole lot easier to sleep at night, especially if you  use a CPAP machine and face mask. If you do, we probably don’t need to tell you how annoying mask leaks are. Continue reading

Sleep and Men's Health

Men: Here’s How Sleep Deprivation Can Mess with Your Health

June is all about the guys: with Father’s Day just around the corner, and Men’s Health Week underway, this month is a great time to take a moment and reflect on the lives and health of men. Men face specific challenges when it comes to all aspects of health — they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, thanks to outdated stereotypes, and mental health concerns often take a backseat to work and family obligations. There’s a fair amount of pressure on men to tough out any health concerns they may have, which means that if they do end up on the exam table, they’re likely to play down what’s really going on.

Convincing men to take physical and mental health ‘red flags’ seriously means leaping over a few hurdles thrown up by societal gender perceptions, and that goes double for sleep. As a whole, we’re all more likely to write sleep off as something that’s nice to have, not something we need. Of course, the opposite is true. And guys? If you don’t get enough sleep often enough, it can mess with your body and head in some really serious ways. Continue reading

New Moms Want More Sleep: 7 Ways to Sleep with a Newborn

Earlier this year, a “groundbreaking” study enjoyed a good bit of popularity on social media and other corners of the internet, in part because it confirmed what so many of us already knew: moms are more sleep deprived than dads.

It was tempting to poke fun at the findings, which noted that while the presence of children in the home did nothing to alter the sleep patterns of men, over half of the women in the pool of 5,805 total participants reported getting insufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep, in this case, is generally considered to be less than the optimal 6-9 hours of sleep a night. But when you consider that as a whole, America is already sleep-deprived and suffering the detrimental health impacts of that, the way that moms — particularly new moms — are disproportionately affected is really no laughing matter. The study, authored by Georgia Southern University’s Dr. Kelly Sullivan — and other studies like it — paint a less than peaceful nightly picture for moms: Continue reading

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The One Test Everyone with Diabetes Should Know About

Does Sleep Loss Cause Diabetes?

It’s no secret that insufficient sleep makes us cranky and wreaks havoc on our ability to focus and function. But sleep deprivation’s more insidious side effects include physical risks that are far more serious. There’s certainly no dearth of sobering study results that point to negative long-term health concerns brought on by sleep deprivation. One that’s particularly alarming? The link between insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep and one of America’s biggest public health concerns: diabetes. Continue reading

How Would a Doctor Fix Our Health Care System?

The state of health care and insurance in our country has been a hot topic in recent months. Politicians have tried and failed to fix it – perhaps because they have no real experience with it themselves. As the director of a locally recognized sleep center, board certified in Sleep Medicine and Internal Medicine, and involved in clinical research – Dr. Kakar, M.D., M.P.H. has a vested interest in health care reform. Continue reading

Dr. Raj Kakar of Dallas Sleep Among D Magazine’s Best Doctors of 2017

Our very own Dr. Raj Kakar, M.D., M.P.H., is honored to have been voted one of Collin County’s Best Doctors in Sleep Medicine for D Magazine’s annual list in 2017. His inclusion on this year’s list of trusted physicians marks the seventh consecutive year his commitment to sleep health in north Texas has been recognized in D. Please join us in congratulating him in this accomplishment. Continue reading