What Are Night Seizures Like?
There are a number of different kinds of night seizures people, especially children, experience. The fact that these seizures occur at night has not so much to do with the clock, but simply that people with epilepsy, especially children, very often experience the seizures during the bedtime hours.
Partial Seizures - Different parts of the brain that are affected, cause different types of symptoms in night seizures. Most seizures are partial seizures, as only a part of the brain is involved. The part that's involved may affect physical movement only, or it may affect the part of the brain that perceives reality, leading to strange dreams, sensations, or hallucinations. A petit mal seizure, which only affects a person for a very brief period of time, usually will pass unnoticed during the night if the person is sleeping. In fact when a petit mal seizure strikes a person during the day, they simply become unaware of their surroundings for a few seconds, and then come back no normal, not being aware that the seizure even took place. Other types of seizures can of course disrupt one's sleep, and even the sleep of others in some cases.
Night seizures often result in the affected person entering a state which resemble a very vivid and realistic nightmare, or a confusing jumble of sensory perceptions. A person may awaken with one of these seizures feeling a sense of unreality, or a feeling of being completely detached from their physical surroundings. There may be a feeling of numbness in parts of the body, or even throughout the body, at times followed by feelings of discomfort and occasionally pain.
Non-Epileptic Seizures - Not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Children and adults alike can, and often do experience mild night seizures of one kind or another when suffering an illness or running a fever. Seizures resulting from running a fever are often classified as febrile seizures, and may occur more than once, but usually occur only during the period of time the illness or fever is present. Whereas an epileptic seizure is generally spontaneous, a febrile seizure is not, and is brought about the person's illness. This type of seizure usually affects younger children, and usually during the night. They may experience some numbness, shaking, and stiffening of the limbs for several minutes, after which the condition passes.
Another type of night seizures are caused by what is known as Rolandic epilepsy. It most commonly affects children from infancy up through their teens. The seizures are partial, normally affecting a specific part of the body. It may affect the jaw, or an arm or a leg. The affected person may awaken and have difficulty speaking, or difficulty in controlling movement in one or more limbs. As frightening as these night seizures can be, the condition usually responds well to medication which keeps the epilepsy under control. Most children outgrow this type of epilepsy, without suffering any neurological problems in the process.
When night seizures are suspected, or definitely known to be occurring diagnosis us usually verified through an electroencephalogram or EEG test. In this test, brain waves are monitored and any abnormalities detected help pave the way for putting in place a course of treatment. In the majority of cases, medications are all that are required, and surgery is rarely needed. Most children will outgrow the seizure symptoms. The medication simply helps the process along, and spares the child of having to put up with scary and at times terrifying experiences. If the night seizures are caused by something else than epilepsy, a different battery of tests may be needed to determine both cause and treatment.