Interactions between sleep and epilepsy

J Clin Neurophysiol. 2001 Mar;18(2):106-27. doi: 10.1097/00004691-200103000-00003.


Sleep is one of the best-documented factors influencing the expression of seizures and interictal discharges. Janz studied the relation between seizures and the sleep/wake cycle and divided the epilepsies into three categories: nocturnal, awakening, and diffuse. Since then, the effect of sleep on the ictal and interictal manifestations of epilepsy has been studied extensively. Many seizures are activated by sleep or arousal from sleep. Interictal discharges are also seen more commonly during sleep, with the greatest activation seen during nonrapid eye movement sleep. Sleep not only increases the frequency of epileptiform abnormalities, but also may alter their morphology and distribution. Sleep deprivation also facilitates both epileptiform abnormalities and seizures. Seizures, on the other hand, also impact sleep. Epileptic patients demonstrate multiple sleep abnormalities, including an increased sleep latency, fragmented sleep, increased awakenings and stage shifts, and an increase in stages 1 and 2 of nonrapid eye movement sleep. These disturbances may in turn be modulated by antiepileptic treatment. This review summarizes the interactions between sleep and epilepsy, including the timing of seizures during the sleep/wake cycle, the influence of sleep on various seizure disorders, the effects of sleep deprivation, and the changes in sleep patterns caused by seizures and their treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Seizures / prevention & control
  • Sleep Deprivation / diagnosis
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep* / drug effects
  • Sleep* / physiology
  • Spasms, Infantile / diagnosis
  • Spasms, Infantile / physiopathology
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus / physiopathology


  • Anticonvulsants