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Epilepsy/juvenile myoclonic epilepsy/sleep paralysis?



As a teenager (15 or 16?), I was diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.  I had a few grand mal seizures, and was put on depakote to control them. One thing that my doctor at the time thought might be a possible trigger is sleep deprivation.  As a teen, I was staying up really late, and waking up early, sometimes getting less than 4 hours of sleep each night. The doctor asked me to ensure that I get absolutely no less than 4 hours of sleep each night.  I was also considered to be photosensitive, although that was just a result of the EEGs - I don't think it ever triggered a seizure for me. I was weaned off the medication, and at 19 or 20 had an EEG which the neurologist considered to be 'normal.'  I have been off depakote since, and have not had any seizures.  I am currently 30 years old.

I recently had a baby, and they encouraged me to get a TDAP vaccine.  Given my history, I was told that they do not recommend I receive the vaccine, as it is possible that I am having small seizures in my sleep, or that the epilepsy could be dormant, and this might aggravate or trigger it.  

This caused me to think a little more about the sleep paralysis symptoms that I've experienced for at least since I was a teen, maybe earlier, I can't recall. I never really had a name for it, but I googled the symptoms this morning, and sleep paralysis seems to best describe it. I am wondering if there's any chance that this could potentially be seizures in my sleep, or simply sleep paralysis, and if you think I should maybe see a doctor about it.

I will be in the middle of a dream, and become aware that I am dreaming.  I start to wake (or try to wake, in some cases), but find that I cannot.  I am completely immobile, experiencing tingling in my body, especially in my hands and arms, and have a loud buzzing sound in my ears.  Sometimes I wake right afterwards, but more often, I will think that I have woken, only to later realize that I am still in a dream, and then experience the same sensations all over again.  This can go on several times before I actually awaken. This happens probably once every few months or so.

Given that I have a new baby, I am particularly sleep deprived, and that is part of my concern.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Dear Nicole,
You could be experiencing nocturnal seizures or it could be something else.
The only definitive way to determine this is to have some EEG monitoring while you sleep.
This can best be accomplished by having 24 hour EEG monitoring done for a few days.
Since you are not taking any antiepileptic medication,  this can be very easily done at home.
They will apply the EEG leads and cover them with a cap and you can then continue with all your regular activities.  A digital recording of your brain waves will run continuously day and night to provide information to your physicians regarding the possibility of nocturnal seizures.
Hopefully you will get an answer soon.
Good luck,


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Sophia, R.N., M.S.


Almost any questions pertaining to epilepsy, seizures, pseudo-seizures, testing for epilepsy, medications, surgery. Self-care, appropriate emergency measures, medication side-effects, drug interactions etc.


Working as an epilepsy nurse clinican in a large comprehensive epilepsy center for 15 years. Previous employment with a major pharmaceutical company working in pharmaceutical research. Before that - varied experience in nursing.

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