A study on the effects of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) exercises in patients with epilepsy found a significant decrease in depressive symptoms, improved sleep, and improved quality of life.

“Progressive muscle relaxation exercise enables individuals to feel the difference between tension and relaxedness and teaches individuals to relax on their own, wrote the authors of this study. “It also provides relaxation and peace while reducing physical and emotional tension.”

This randomized controlled intervention study was published in Seizure – European Journal of Epilepsy.

The study included a total of 70 participants diagnosed with epilepsy. The participants were divided into control and intervention groups between November 1, 2022, and April 15, 2022. The patients in the intervention group underwent 12 PMR exercise sessions, 3 days a week, for 4 weeks.

PMR exercises are mind-body practices that create relaxation through regular and voluntary relaxation of large muscles, with many benefits such as improving mental and physical states of stress, pain, and fatigue.

The patients in the intervention group were required to practice relaxation techniques regularly at home for 30 minutes each day. The patients were asked to listen to and practice these exercises, especially before going to bed and while in a quiet environment.

Data came from a personal information form, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the Quality of Life in Epilepsy Inventory (QUOLIE-31). The instruments measured changes in depression, sleep, and quality of life from pre-intervention and post-intervention in both groups of patients.

The researchers found that the mean PSQI total score, subscale scores, and mean BDI total scores of the patients decreased significantly compared with those in the control group. Additionally, a significant decrease was found between mean QUOLIE-31 total scores and subscale scores in the intervention-group after undergoing the muscle relaxation exercises. The mean scores of the intervention group after the sessions were significantly higher than those in the control group.

The overall attenuation of muscle tension and increase in overall physiological relaxation seen in these patients who underwent intervention suggests that PMR may provide benefits in patients with epilepsy, including improving heart rate, cortisol, blood pressure, pain relief, depression, and stress.

This study had some limitations. For example, the findings can’t be generalized for all patients with epilepsy, since it reports a single university hospital experience. Additionally, only patients who could use WhatsApp from their smartphones were included.

Despite limitations, the changes in scores in the intervention group compared with the control group suggests that PMR can decrease depressive symptoms, improve sleep, and create a better quality of life.

The researchers suggested that PMR can be recommended for patients with epilepsy under the following conditions:

  • To regularly assess severity of depressive symptoms, quality of sleep, and quality of life among patients with epilepsy
  • To integrate PMR exercise with pharmacological methods
  • To provide PMR training by nurses to epilepsy patients
  • To conduct longer studies with larger samples of patients

“Progressive muscle relaxation exercises decreased depressive symptoms severity and improved sleep and life quality in patients with epilepsy. Progressive relaxation exercises may be recommended as a complementary nursing intervention in treating epilepsy,” wrote the authors.


Özden B, Turan GB. Effects of progressive muscle relaxation exercises on patients with epilepsy on level of depression, quality of sleep, and quality of life: A randomized controlled trial. Seizure. 2023. doi:10.1016/j.seizure.2023.01.002


Source: ajmc.com, Pearl Steinzor