Sleep-related hypermotor epilepsy: prevalence, impact and management strategies

Nat Sci Sleep. 2018 Oct 10;10:317-326. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S152624. eCollection 2018.


Sleep-related hypermotor epilepsy (SHE), previously called nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE), is a focal epilepsy characterized by asymmetric tonic/dystonic posturing and/or complex hyperkinetic seizures occurring mostly during sleep. SHE fulfills the definition of rare disease with an estimated minimum prevalence of 1.8/100,000 individuals, and it represents about 10% of drug-resistant surgical cases. Although SHE and autosomal-dominant SHE (ADSHE) have been considered benign epileptic conditions for a long time, emerging data have shed light on the severity of this disorder and some peculiar features can impact negatively on the quality of life of SHE patients. In fact, seizure frequency can be very high, resulting in nocturnal sleep fragmentation with possible diurnal consequences such as excessive sleepiness and fatigue. Moreover, recent studies, adopting a systematic neuropsychological assessment, have shown deficits in memory, executive functions and visuo-spatial abilities in almost half of SHE patients. Intellectual disabilities and psychiatric disorders have also been reported in some genetic forms. SHE may also exert a negative effect on health-related quality of life, especially in domains pertaining to a patient's role in the family, social context and patient's illness experience. Despite a good response to pharmacological treatment, especially with carbamazepine, 30% of SHE patients suffer from drug-resistant seizures. Finally, recent studies suggest a poor prognosis in a high percentage of SHE patients with a 20.4% cumulative probability of achieving terminal remission at 10 years from onset. For selected drug-resistant SHE patients, epilepsy surgery is the only treatment offering high probability of recovery, both for seizures and for epilepsy-related sleep alterations.

Keywords: epidemiology; epilepsy; nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy; parasomnias; sleep-related hypermotor epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review