How to Sleep Better if You Have Epilepsy
Smart Sleep Strategies for More ZZZs
Making adjustments to your medication, avoiding known seizure triggers, and working closely with your doctor on your treatment strategy are important first steps. But according to sleep specialist Shalini Paruthi, MD, the codirector of the St. Luke’s Sleep Medicine and Research Center in Chesterfield, Missouri, there are more steps you can take to help you rest easy and wake up refreshed. Start with these tips.
- Get enough shut-eye. It sounds obvious, but the fact is, most of us just don’t sleep enough. A poll conducted in 2014 by the National Sleep Foundation found that about 45 percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep interferes with their daily activities at least once a week. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to function at their best, while teenagers 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours, and children 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours. If you’re sleep-deprived, your brain will be more irritated, which can lead to more seizures. So first things first, get more sleep.
- Develop a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and time your naps so they don’t interfere with your bedtime.
- Treat any underlying sleep problems. A review published in September 2019 inEpilepsy Researchfound that people with epilepsy are more likely to have sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia. That makes having a sleep disorder a double whammy, because if your brain is affected by a sleep disorder all night long, that can provoke more seizures. Know the signs: Feeling excessively tired during the day, snoring while you sleep, or waking up often during the night can signal a sleep disorder. Your doctor might recommend that you see a sleep medicine specialist who can perform certain tests to see exactly what’s affecting your sleep. If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, taking steps to control it can help calm brain activity and improve your epilepsy.
- Develop healthy sleep habits. Create an environment that’s conducive to sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and turn off all electronics, including TVs, cell phones, handheld video games, tablets, and computers, because they emit light, which decreases melatonin, the hormone produced by your brain that helps you sleep. Establishing a simple bedtime routine that you follow every night — whether it’s a soak in the tub or a few minutes of deep breathing — can also help teach your mind and body when it’s time to go to sleep.
Dr. Paruthi admits that doing this kind of habit retraining can be hard at first, but you’ll soon reap the benefits and restful results. “Many people forget that getting to sleep involves positive, good behaviors," she says. "To be a good sleeper, you have to actually practice your short, 15-minute bedtime routine every night.
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