Patients with epilepsy may have an increased incidence of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a latest Australian study.

The link between epilepsy and obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition where patients stop breathing at night is being taken as an interesting find.

Terry O’Brien of Royal Melbourne Hospital said there was some evidence from other studies that patients with epilepsy may have an increased incidence of sleep-disordered breathing, ABC reported on Monday.

Mr. O’Brien said there were similar symptoms of daytime sleepiness and fatigue between the two conditions.

He said patients with epilepsy can gain weight as a result of their medications, something that increases their risk of sleep-disordered breathing.

“We put two and two together and thought we should look into this,” he said.

Doctors had recruited 87 patients with epilepsy and monitored them in a sleep unit.

It was found that 25 per cent had significant sleep-disordered breathing that was severe enough to require treatment.

In the general population, the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing is between three to seven per cent.

Mr. O’Brien further said that the recent research has shown that there was a well-established treatment for sleep-disordered breathing.

He said when epilepsy patients were given a CPAP machine, there was a significant improvement.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine helps a person who has obstructive sleep apnoea breathe more easily during sleep.

“The patients are having tremendous benefits, and they feel better because they are less sleepy,” he said.

According to a sleep physician of Royal Melbourne Hospital, Jeremy Goldin, the fact that so many epilepsy patients have sleep apnoea is a very interesting finding.

“We knew that patients with seizures were at an increased risk of sleep apnoea; however, we didn’t expect an increase to the extent that we found,” he said adding “If we can diagnose sleep apnoea in these patients, we can start them on CPAP therapy [so] they can control their seizures, improve their sleep quality, improve how they feel during the day.”

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