WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Seizures?

By Michael Howard
Medically Reviewed by Lisa Shives, MD, PC on August 30, 2021
Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep cycle and can seriously impact your health. It may also increase your risk of having a seizure.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes your upper airway to become blocked while you’re asleep, interfering with your breathing. Scientific research shows significant connections between sleep apnea and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even cancer. There is also an association between sleep apnea and seizures. We consulted with experts for more details.

Sleep Apnea and Seizures

“There is a correlation between sleep apnea and seizures, but it is not clearly understood,” David Nazarian, MD, Medical Director at My Concierge MD, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Sleep apnea can cause a decrease in oxygen levels in our bodies and thus interfere with the brain’s normal electrical activity.”

Sleep apnea is commonly diagnosed in people with epilepsy. According to Nazarian, nearly 40 percent of epilepsy patients also have sleep apnea.

“People who have epilepsy and sleep apnea are more likely to have a seizure during the night than people without sleep apnea,” Nazarian explains. “Not getting enough sleep or poor quality of sleep can trigger an episode of seizure in people who suffer from epilepsy disorders. It is very important to get adequate sleep if you have a diagnosis of epilepsy.”

Nazarian further notes that “several studies suggest that untreated obstructive sleep apnea facilitates seizures in susceptible patient populations, particularly older individuals.”

To avoid these complications, it is crucial to have your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“If sleep apnea is treated in time, one sleeps soundly and experiences fewer episodes of constant arousals and awakenings during sleep,” George Samuel, MD and Medical Advisor at WhatASleep, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “As the brain recovers from chronic sleep deprivation, the malfunctions that lead to seizures may become less common.”

Treatment will largely depend on the severity of your condition. For mild cases of sleep apnea, Samuel says, lifestyle changes are oftentimes sufficient. If your sleep apnea is more severe, you may need to use continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Think you may have sleep apnea? You can start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.