Rarity of Seizures During REM Sleep: Milena Pavlova, MD


The associate professor at Harvard Medical School and neurologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital shared the current research on rapid eye movement in sleep and seizures. [WATCH TIME: 3 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 3 minutes

“In the current studies, less than 1% of all seizures happened in REM sleep and it's just very curious as to why this happens. What property of REM sleep accounts for this, and is REM sleep regulation one of the components?”

Rapid eye movement (REM) has demonstrated in recent research to be protective against seizures and potentially assist with postsurgical seizure freedom.1 Research has shown that there have been rare cases recorded in which patients with epilepsy have experienced seizures in REM. Further research into the reason for this and the connection with REM sleep and seizures may be investigated in the future.

Prior research from coauthor Milena Pavlova, MD, and her colleagues observed a strong antiepileptic effect in REM sleep against focal interictal discharges, focal seizures, and generalized seizures.1 Additionally, Pavlova and her colleague noted that REM sleep has an antiepileptic effect in comparison with wakefulness against generalized and focal seizures.

Pavlova sat down in an interview by NeurologyLive® at the2022 American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting, held December 2 to 6, in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss a few points which she believes is critical for having a better understanding of the relation between sleep and epilepsy. She also explained the current research surrounding the rare cases of seizures that occur during REM sleep. Pavlova, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and neurologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, also provided some of her recommendations for future directions to take in the research about the case of seizures in REM sleep.

Click here for more coverage of AES 2022.

1. Ng M, Pavlova M. Why are seizures rare in rapid eye movement sleep? Review of the frequency of seizures in different sleep stages. Epilepsy Res Treat. 2013;2013:932790. doi:10.1155/2013/932790
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