Epilepsy: Seizures when sleeping

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Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that causes a tendency to have recurrent seizures. The condition is also known as a seizure disorder. The mechanism of epilepsy attack is well understood.

During a seizure, some brain cells send abnormal signals, which stop other cells from working properly. This abnormality may cause temporary changes in sensation, behavior, movement or consciousness. The onset of epilepsy is most common during childhood and after the age of 65, but the condition can occur at any age. Some people with epilepsy have seizures only when they are awake, some while asleep and some people have a mixture of both. There are over two million people in the U.S. with diagnosed epilepsy. Although it is relatively common, the disease is widely misunderstood.

Possible causes of epilepsy

Not all the causes of epilepsy are known, but many predisposing factors have been identified, including:

  • brain damage resulting from malformations during brain development,
  • head trauma,
  • neurosurgical operations,
  • penetrating wounds of the brain, 
  • brain tumor, high fever,
  • bacterial or viral encephalitis, 
  • stroke,
  • intoxication,
  • acute or inborn disturbances of metabolism,
  • chemical disturbances of the brain - drugs or poisons or organs that don't work properly.
  • an inherited tendency to seizures.
  • sleep loss.
  • sudden stopping of drugs


Hereditary or genetic factors also play a role - mutations in several genes have been linked to some types of epilepsy. Some genes that code for protein subunits of voltage-gated and ligand-gated ion channels have been associated with forms of generalized epilepsy and infantile seizure syndromes.

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