Lack of Sleep and Epilepsy


Lot of things can affect a person’s sleep and make them more likely to have seizures. Here are a few factors to consider.

  • Not getting enough sleep: There’s no magic number of hours of sleep that everyone should get. Some people do well on 5 hours a night, others need 8 to 10 hours or more. In general, at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night is considered good, but the quality of sleep also needs to be considered. If people sleep much less than this most of the time, they are likely sleep deprived and not getting good sleep.
  • Not getting ‘good quality’ sleep: Good sleep means feeling rested when you wake up and have energy during the day. Lots of things can prevent you from getting good quality sleep, for example not getting enough sleep, waking up frequently, or having a very restless sleep.
  • Having seizures at night: Seizures at night can wake people up or just disrupt their sleep so they aren’t getting a good quality of sleep. Their brains may be missing some of the important sleep cycles. As a result, someone who has lots of seizures at night may have trouble functioning during the day. They may also be chronically sleep deprived and have more seizures during the day too!
  • Difficulty falling asleep: Sleep problems can arise from being unable to fall asleep, awakening frequently, or waking up too early. Seizures, moods, and medicine side effects can all cause insomnia.
  • Moods: Difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of depression and anxiety. If sleep problems last longer than 2 weeks and/or other symptoms of mood problems are present, it’s time to sort this out by seeing your doctor or mental health specialist.
  • Poor eating habits: Eating or drinking late at night, eating large amounts before sleep, drinking coffee or other drinks with caffeine, or drinking alcohol in the evening are just a few eating habits that can worsen sleep.
  • Side effects of medications: Some seizure medications can make people sleepy. Others can make it harder to fall asleep. The times seizure medications are taken may also make a difference.
  • Sleep disorders: Sometimes people can’t sleep because they have a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, restless legs or other sleep problems. Sleep disorders can leave a person chronically sleep deprived and tired. It’s not unusual to see people with seizures also have sleep disorders.
  • Exercise regularly. Look at the type and timing of exercise. Vigorous exercise is usually better earlier in the day.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex, not for activities that will keep you awake.
  • Make sure your sleeping environment is quiet and dark.
  • Try to keep consistent sleep hours. Keeping a regular wake up time is real helpful.
  • Improve sleep habits before bed – look at when you exercise, don’t eat late at night, and turn off your electronics!
  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime. Limit alcoholic drinks at night.
  • Take a warm shower before bed to help you relax.
  • Stop working or doing stimulating activities before you go to bed. Try more relaxing activities instead.
  • Consider meditation or a form of relaxing exercises before bedtime.
  • If it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing or quiet for about 20 to 30 minutes until you get tired. Read something short, like a magazine article, but don't get engrossed in your favorite book! When you feel tired, go back to bed. If you still can’t sleep, get up after 30 minutes. Eventually your body will learn to sleep when you’re in bed.

Authored By:

Steven C. Schachter, MD

Reviewed By:

Joseph I. Sirven MD


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