Dravet syndrome is a serious form of epilepsy characterized by seizures that first appear in early infancy. Prolonged seizures or a series of seizures occurring in a short time, known as status epilepticus, are common in Dravet patients and have the potential to cause serious injury.
Approved treatments for Dravet syndrome are primarily aimed at reducing the severity and frequency of seizures. In addition to maintaining a treatment regimen of anticonvulsants, patients and their caregivers can try to avoid seizure triggers to reduce their occurrence.
A lack of sleep as a seizure trigger
One of the most common seizure triggers is not getting enough sleep. Since children need more sleep than adults, losing sleep can have a bigger effect on them.
Children with Dravet syndrome have more disrupted sleep than children without the condition. Seizures themselves can disrupt the sleep cycle, and so can some anticonvulsant therapies.
Disrupted sleep can also increase the incidence of seizures, as well as causing attention deficit and learning, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.
Strategies to maintain sleep quality
It is important for parents and caregivers to make healthy sleep a priority for themselves, as well as for the patient, both for health reasons and quality of life.
Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep include:
- Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake time.
- Keeping the child’s bedroom dark and quiet during sleep times, and opening curtains or blinds after waking up.
- Exercising regularly but not just before bed.
- Talking to a sleep specialist about strategies and potential treatments to maintain sleep quality.
Seizures, especially at night, can be very dangerous, but several safety precautions can help:
- Beds should be low to reduce the risk of falls. Safety mats (like on a gym floor) can be used if the child tends to fall out of bed during seizures.
- Furniture that can be knocked over, such as bedside tables, should not be kept next to the bed. Wall-mounted lamps are safer than floor or table lamps.
- Anti-suffocation pillows, special pillows with large air channels for ventilation, can help prevent suffocation if the child ends up face-down during or after a seizure.
- Seizure monitors can recognize that a seizure is occurring and trip an alarm to call for assistance.
- Keeping an emergency seizure management plan nearby is also important so that in the event of a seizure, information is immediately available to emergency responders.
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