What is a Nocturnal Seizure?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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A nocturnal seizure is a disorder in which seizures occur only while a person is sleeping. They can be caused by abnormal or unusual electrical impulses in the brain, head trauma, or exposure to toxic substances. These types of convulsions may also be brought on by hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, skipping meals, or recreational drug use. They are difficult to diagnose, but may usually be controlled with medication.

Many times, people are unaware that they have had a nocturnal seizure because they did not awaken while it was happening. The partners of those who are afflicted may also not recognize this has occurred because the person might regularly toss and turn heavily. This often means that individuals do not seek treatment for nocturnal epilepsy unless they are injured as a result of a convulsion.

Some of the symptoms of a nocturnal seizure include biting the tongue and bed-wetting. A person might also wake up the next morning with a severe headache or be lightheaded and dizzy. Other times, they might be confused or extremely tired.

Once it has been determined that a person has had a nocturnal seizure, he should make an appointment with his physician. That professional may want to run a series of tests to confirm a diagnosis of nocturnal epilepsy. This may include taking a computed axial tomography (CAT) scan of the brain and head.


People who are determined to have had a nocturnal seizure should try to figure out the cause of this problem. They might want to eliminate or reduce their exposure to dangerous chemicals if possible. They should also limit their intake of alcohol and their drug use to make sure these substances do not trigger a spasm. Individuals might also want to stay away from bright, flashing or flickering lights, like those often found in nightclubs.

Doctors often prescribe medication to control nocturnal seizures. While these medicines may reduce the number of episodes, they typically do not eliminate them completely. For this reason, it is imperative that affected people also avoid things that cause these convulsions, whenever possible.

Nocturnal epilepsy is not usually a life-threatening condition. Even so, people who are prone to having a night-time seizure should follow their doctor's advice carefully so they do not inadvertently become injured while they are sleeping. Patients who do so normally have fewer incidents and suffer fewer side effects as a result than those who do not take proper precautions.


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