Scientists link sleep & stress with epileptic seizures.

According to a recent study, understanding how and when persons with epilepsy are prone to develop seizures may depend on sleep habits and stress hormones.

Mathematical modeling was employed by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK to study the effects of various physiological processes, such as sleep and variations in the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol, on important epilepsy signatures known as epileptiform discharges (ED).

A dangerous neurological condition called epilepsy is characterized by a propensity for spontaneous, repeated seizures.

Until the finding of ED activity with timelines that varied from hours and days to months, seizures were traditionally thought to occur at random.

Two subgroups with unique distributions of epileptiform discharges—one with a peak incidence during sleep and the other during the day—were identified by the researchers after 24-hour EEG recordings from 107 individuals with idiopathic generalized epilepsy were analyzed.

The team’s research was published in PLOS Computational Biology, and it showed that most of the reported distributions of ED could be explained by cortisol dynamics, sleep stage transitions, or a combination of the two.

According to lead author Isabella Marinelli, from the University’s Centre for Systems Modelling & Quantitative Biomedicine (SMQB), “there are approximately 65 million people with epilepsy worldwide, and many of them report specific triggers that make their seizures more likely. The most common of these triggers include stress, sleep deprivation, and fatigue.”

“Our results provide conceptual evidence that rhythms of epileptiform discharges are driven physiologically by sleep patterns and variations in cortisol concentration. Our mathematical method offers a foundation for better comprehending what elements may promote ED activity and possibly cause the seizures that can be so crippling for epilepsy sufferers, the researcher continued.

The mathematical model developed by the researchers shows the activity of interconnected brain regions and how these regions’ excitability might alter in response to various inputs, such as changes in cortisol levels or transitions between sleep stages.

Many epileptics have a rise in ED frequency at night, in the early morning, particularly under stressful conditions. The researchers found that one subgroup’s variation was 90% explained by sleep.

The passage discusses the relationship between cortisol, a primary stress hormone, and the likelihood of experiencing eating disorders (EDs) during different periods of wakefulness and sleep. Here’s a summary of the key points in the passage:

  1. Cortisol is identified as one of the primary stress hormones in humans. Its production and secretion are regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
  2. In response to stressful situations, the activity of the HPA axis increases, leading to higher secretion of cortisol.
  3. The passage refers to a study or research where changes in the likelihood of experiencing eating disorders during wakefulness were observed.
  4. The researcher, Marinelli, notes that sleep alone cannot account for the observed changes in the likelihood of eating disorders during wakefulness in one subgroup.
  5. The study found a reduction in the likelihood of eating disorders during sleep time after an initial sharp increase during the first few hours of sleep.
  6. This reduction in eating disorder likelihood during sleep can be explained by the fact that deep sleep, which is associated with an increase in eating disorders, is more prevalent during the first third of the sleep period.
  7. The research also identified an increase in the occurrence of eating disorders before waking. This increase is thought to be influenced by the level of cortisol, which is known to rise around the time of waking.

The passage suggests that there is a complex interplay between sleep, cortisol levels, and the likelihood of experiencing eating disorders. The initial increase in eating disorder likelihood during sleep may be related to specific sleep stages, and the presence of cortisol may have a combined effect on these patterns.

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