Purpose: The study purpose was to evaluate sleep structure during ketogenic diet (KD) treatment in children with therapy-resistant epilepsy and to correlate possible alterations with changes in clinical effects on seizure reduction, seizure severity, quality of life (QOL), and behavior.
Methods: Eighteen children were examined with ambulatory polysomnographic recordings initially and after 3 months of KD treatment. Eleven children continued with the KD and were also evaluated after 12 months. Sleep parameters were estimated. Seizure frequency was recorded in a diary and seizure severity in the National Health Seizure Severity Scale (NHS3). QOL was assessed with a visual analogue scale. Child behavior checklist and Ponsford and Kinsella's rating scale of attentional behavior were used.
Results: KD induced a significant decrease in total sleep (p = 0.05) and total night sleep (p = 0.006). Slow wave sleep was preserved, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep increased (p = 0.01), sleep stage 2 decreased (p = 0.004), and sleep stage 1 was unchanged. Eleven children continued with the KD and were also evaluated after 12 months. They showed a significant decrease in daytime sleep (p = 0.01) and a further increase in REM sleep (p = 0.06). Seizure frequency (p = 0.001, p = 0.003), seizure severity (p < 0.001, p = 0.005) and QOL (p < 0.001, p = 0.005) were significantly improved at 3 and 12 months. Attentional behavior was also improved, significantly so at 3 months (p = 0.003). There was a significant correlation between increased REM sleep and improvement in QOL (Spearman r = 0.6, p = 0.01) at 3 months.
Conclusion: KD decreases sleep and improves sleep quality in children with therapy-resistant epilepsy. The improvement in sleep quality, with increased REM sleep, seems to contribute to the improvement in QOL.