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Q&A
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Does stress and sleep deprivation lead to seizures?

Answered by: Dr. S.K. Pandya
Neurosurgeon,
Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre,
Mumbai

Q. I had an episode of seizure (generalised tonic-clonic) for the first time in my life. For the past one month I have been through periods of intense mental strain and sleep deprivation. I am a medical student. Do periods of mental strain and sleeplessness give rise to seizures? My classmate witnessed my seizure, which lasted for 45 seconds. I regained my memory only after 15 minutes. Now I feel much better and I am quite mentally relaxed. What are the chances of recurrence, if I keep the precipitating factors under control?

A.  Yes, indeed, sleep deprivation can lead to a convulsion, especially in one who is susceptible to epilepsy. As you probably know, one of the methods of inducing a convulsion in a person suspected to suffer from epilepsy is by depriving that person of sleep throughout a night. Since you did suffer a convulsion, it is wise to seek counsel from your professor of neurology. An EEG and a computerised tomography scan may be recommended after a complete clinical evaluation. If these show abnormal electrical impulses or a lesion predisposing to epilepsy, your professor may advise prophylactic treatment. In any event, it is best to regulate your hours of sleep so that you get your minimum required quota of 7 - 8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night.

A.  Yes, indeed, sleep deprivation can lead to a convulsion, especially in one who is susceptible to epilepsy. As you probably know, one of the methods of inducing a convulsion in a person suspected to suffer from epilepsy is by depriving that person of sleep throughout a night. Since you did suffer a convulsion, it is wise to seek counsel from your professor of neurology. An EEG and a computerised tomography scan may be recommended after a complete clinical evaluation. If these show abnormal electrical impulses or a lesion predisposing to epilepsy, your professor may advise prophylactic treatment. In any event, it is best to regulate your hours of sleep so that you get your minimum required quota of 7 - 8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night.

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