Professor Terry O’Brien from the Royal Melbourne Hospital says there has been some evidence from other studies that patients with epilepsy may have an increased incidence of sleep-disordered breathing.
Professor O’Brien says there are similar symptoms of daytime sleepiness and fatigue between the two conditions.
He says patients with epilepsy can gain weight as a result of their medications, something that increases their risk of sleep-disordered breathing.
“We put two and two together and thought we should look into this,” he said.
Doctors recruited 87 patients with epilepsy and monitored them in a sleep unit.
They found 25 per cent had significant sleep-disordered breathing that was severe enough to require treatment.
In the general population, the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing is 3 to 7 per cent.
Awake for up to three days straight
Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Goldstein had always had strange sleeping habits, which included rocking back and forth during the night while he slept.
Eventually, he was diagnosed with epilepsy but it was hard to stop seizures.
To identify the issue, Mr Goldstein undertook a sleep study at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and was found to have severe sleep apnoea.
He said at times he would be awake for up to three days straight.
Since being treated for sleep apnoea, Mr Goldstein has also been able to reduce his epilepsy medications.
Mr Goldstein was also given a CPAP machine which he says helps him soundly throughout the night.
“Now I’ve got energy in a way I didn’t have before. It’s like learning to walk again,” he said. “I feel just phenomenal.”
Well-established treatment for sleep-disordered breathing
Professor O’Brien says the beauty of this recent research is that there is a well-established treatment for sleep-disordered breathing.
He says when epilepsy patients were given a CPAP machine, there was a significant improvement.
“The patients are having tremendous benefits, and they feel better because they are less sleepy,” he said.
Dr Jeremy Goldin, a sleep physician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, says the fact that so many epilepsy patients have sleep apnoea is a very interesting finding.
“We knew that patients with seizures were at an increased risk of sleep apnoea; however, we didn’t expect an increase to the extent that we found,” he said.
“If we can diagnose sleep apnoea in these patients, we can start them on CPAP therapy [so] they can control their seizures, improve their sleep quality, improve how they feel during the day.”
Source: ABC News Australia