Nocturnal seizures in children are a sub-form of epilepsy.Many children who have had nocturnal seizures also have experienced epileptic seizures during the daytime hours. There are children however, who have never had a daytime seizure but have nocturnal seizures. Regardless of the daytime seizure activity or lack of it, nocturnal seizures disrupt normal sleeping patterns, depriving the child of rest. This cycle can interfere with the child's ability to focus, concentrate in school and enjoy life to the fullest.
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Nocturnal seizures in children can be complicated to diagnose for several reasons. Many times it is difficult for parents to witness the seizures as they happen while the child is in a bedroom asleep. The first indicator that a child is having nocturnal seizures can be that the child has trouble functioning during the daytime and displays excessive fatigue. According to sleep expert Dr. Carl Bazil, there are also several other disorders that can appear to be seizure related including nightmares, sleep apnoea and night terrors. While these disorders can be frightening for the parents and confusing for the child, they are not nocturnal seizures. According to Bazil and other experts in the field, the most accurate determination of nocturnal seizures in children is through a medically supervised sleep study.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical University, symptoms of nocturnal seizures can vary widely. In some children, it involves frequent awakening for no apparent reason. For other children it could mean screaming and shouting at night, while other children with nocturnal seizures become violent and flail their arms and legs about, bite their tongues and lose urine while they are sleeping. Many children who have nocturnal seizures are confused and disoriented following the episode.
For nocturnal seizures to be diagnosed, your paediatrician will order a sleep study for your child. During a sleep study, the child spends the night in a medical environment where leads are attached to the head and activity during sleep is monitored and recorded. While the process is painless, the medical environment and the taping of the leads to the scalp and face can cause anxiety for some children. Once the study is complete, experts read the results, which will detail the child's various sleep stages, how frequently the child wakes up ,and other elements that assist in diagnosing nocturnal seizures.
Once your child is diagnosed with nocturnal seizures, the next step is treatment. The most common treatment for nocturnal seizures in children is medication. The medication or medications chosen for your child will depend on several factors, including what part of the brain the seizures originate from, the age and weight of your child, and your child's overall health. While some children outgrow nocturnal children, most require long term medication. The medications for nocturnal seizures have been shown to be highly effective in controlling seizure activity, thereby allowing your child to get the proper rest.
If your child has been diagnosed with nocturnal seizures, it is important to continue monitoring seizure activity and report any changes to your child's paediatrician. Sometimes medications need to be changed or adjusted to continue seizure control, and the only way the doctors will know this is needed is by parental reporting of changes at night in the child's sleep.
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