I’ve been reviewing research related to seizure control and brain health for many years now through the lens of natural medicine.
I still remember being in a consult with an epileptic patient with a very well-known neurologist to discuss natural methods to help control seizures. Despite this particular neurologist’s association with one of the top healing physicians in the world, his did not feel that there was really much to be done for seizure control beyond medications.
I guess he could never really look beyond the deficiencies and brainwashing of his traditional medical, drug-oriented training to evaluate the power of natural approaches to seizures.
That was really sad for this particular patient. And every other epileptic patient saddled to a neurologist (or epileptologist, for that matter) who believe antiepileptic drugs are the only answer. They will spend their lives chasing one drug after another to find one that helps your seizures and has acceptable side effects.
But, if you’ve been lucky enough to partner up with someone who actually reads medical literature, you will find that there is a long list of approaches that have been documented in the medical literature that can help you better manage or even eliminate your seizures.
It is all about healing your brain. If you experience seizures (or migraines or both) your brain is not functioning the way it is supposed to. Messages are getting into cells that are not supposed to be. Other messages that are supposed to be delivered to the cell don’t make it. Your very brain cells are starved for energy so they can work the way it was intended.
Natural approaches to seizures take this into account. I’ve covered many of them over the years, from vitamin D to exercise to fish oils. Some are simple. Others require an upheaval of your lifestyle.
But I have never covered the approach outlined in this particular study.
I guess, had I thought about it, sleep apea would have a strong association with seizures. It’s a stress on the body and brain. It’s linked to prediabetes (prediabetes leads to sleep apnea and sleep apnea worsens prediabetes) and prediabetes is really bad for the brain. It starves brain cells of the oxygen it so desperately needs. And, it occurs at night when the seizure threshold is lower.
Researchers looked at a group of 132 adults with epilepsy to evaluate them for sleep apnea to see whether the use of a CPAP had an effect on the number of seizures over the course of a year. Here’s what they found:
- Seventy-six (57.6%) of the group had obstructive sleep apnea (this is pretty darn high).
- 73.9% of those in the PAP-treated group had more than a 50% seizure reduction in seizures (versus only 14.3% in the untreated sleep apnea patients—HUGE difference).
- Overall, the PAP-treated group experienced a 58.5% reduction in seizures (versus 17.0% in the untreated sleep apnea group—again a HUGE difference).
- 83.7% of those who had PAP-treated sleep apnea had a ≥ 50% seizure reduction or became seizure-free (versus 53.6% in those who did not have sleep apnea and 39.4% in those who had sleep apnea but did not use a PAP).
- To put this in perspective, in those PAP-using sleep apnea adults, they were 9.9 times more likely to have a good outcome than those with untreated sleep apnea and 3.91 times those who did not have sleep apnea.
- When measured in terms of seizure reduction, the group with PAP-treated sleep apnea were 32.3 times more likely to experience a ≥ 50% seizure reduction compared with the group with untreated sleep apnea and 6.13 times compared with the group with no sleep apnea.
These are some pretty serious numbers. To flip everything around, it can be said that sleep apnea is very, very bad for the brain when left untreated. If any of these fits you (whether or not you have seizures), it’s time you got checked out:
- Chronic loud snoring
- Witnessed apneic episodes or breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- BMI > or equal to 28
- Small jaw / small airway
- Large neck size (at least 17” male, 15.5 female)
- Family history of sleep apnea
In addition, your risk for sleep apnea is increased if you have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or untreated hypothyroidism.
If any of the above fits you AND you are epileptic, given how much of a difference it made in this study, you need to get checked out for sleep apnea and get treatment (i.e. CPAP) if you have sleep apnea.