Can seizures occur during sleep?

Seizures occur due to the erratic electrical activity in the brain which results to alterations in movement and level of consciousness. The signs of a seizure tend to vary for every individual.

Some experience seizures while asleep which can be alarming initially. The type that manifests is based on the cycle of sleep the individual is in.

Seizures during non-rapid eye movement

Non-rapid eye movement sleep is one of the main phases of sleep. During this phase, there is minimal body movement and regular breathing. It accounts for up to 75% of a night’s sleep.

Individuals who experience an episode during this phase have generalized seizures. This type lasts between 1-2 minutes and the electrical activity involves both brain hemispheres.


Some experience seizures while asleep which can be alarming initially.

Rapid eye movement

The other phase is rapid eye movement. During this phase, there is erratic breathing along with twitching of the face, legs and arms.

Individuals who experience seizures during this phase typically suffer from partial seizures which manifest for around 90 seconds. In this type of episode, the electrical activity only affects one hemisphere of the brain.


Anti-epileptic drugs are generally given in managing the sleep-related seizures. These drugs work by regulating the electrical volatility inside the brain that instigates seizures. Nevertheless, the individual should take their medications daily since missing a dose can trigger an episode.

If the sleeping pattern is disrupted due to changes in sleep or deprivation, it can lead to sleep seizures. It is recommended to stick with regular hours of sleep and waking. Remember though that it is not advisable to strive for extra sleep since excess sleep can also instigate an episode in some individuals.


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