Nocturnal seizures or seizures during sleep?
Is there someone to assist you if a seizure occurs at night?
If you live alone are you aware of what options may be available to you to increase support in case you have a seizure?
If there is someone available to help you if you have a seizure, check they know how to put you into the recovery position (onto your side) and what to do in case of emergency. See our First Aid page for advice.
There are a number of devices for night-time seizure monitoring that are now available for use in the home. They are designed to recognise that a seizure has occurred or that breathing has been disrupted, triggering an alarm so that assistance can be provided.
This is a rapidly developing area of research. Investigation into the development and the benefit of such monitors is ongoing and at this time there is no evidence to show that using an alarm or device can guarantee the safety of a person experiencing nocturnal seizures. However, some families have found monitors useful as part of a risk reduction plan. Speak to your clinician about whether a device is something that you might choose to use.
Because many epilepsy-related deaths occur overnight with people found lying face down there is speculation that this position may interfere with breathing and contribute to the deaths. However, the use of special pillows has not been proven to prevent death from suffocation or SUDEP. Some people advocate for the use of special pillows to allow better airflow around the face. But, using such a pillow cannot guarantee the safety of a person having nocturnal seizures. The use of such pillows is a personal choice.
Read more about individual devices on our Epilepsy Safety Devices page
Take care around water, particularly if you have a child with epilepsy or if you are a parent with epilepsy, as baths, showers, spas, pools, ponds or any body of water can be dangerous if a seizure occurs.
Have a shower instead of a bath:
- If possible, have a shower with a flat floor (instead of a shower tray) so water doesn’t collect
- Use either plastic or safety glass shower screen/cubicle, or a shower curtain in case you have a seizure
- If your shower is over a bath, wrap a towel around the taps of the shower to help avoid injury if you fall
- Consider timing your shower when someone is nearby and if your seizures have a pattern, shower when they are least likely
- Avoid locking the door and if possible have someone nearby who can help you if you have a seizure or fall
- You may wish to consider fitting a bathroom door which opens outwards in case you have a seizure behind the door
Swimming & other water activities:
Never swim alone. Ensure that someone who knows about your epilepsy is with you or watching you and that they are able to help you if you have a seizure. Public swimming pools with lifeguards are the safest places to swim; let them know you have epilepsy so they can support you if needed.
If you take part in water activities (eg: fishing, sailing, water sports), use a life jacket and speak to the activity organiser about your epilepsy so they can support you in reducing any risks.
- Make sure that hot water, heaters, radiators and spas/hot-tubs are temperature controlled
- Use a guard for open fires, fireplaces and radiators/heaters. Avoid using lightweight free-standing heaters if possible
- Turn the cold water tap on first and off last
- Use a microwave where possible instead of a stove or oven. Keep the microwave below head height
- Place saucepan handles away from the cooker edge when cooking in case they are knocked during a seizure
- Serve meals from the counter rather than carrying hot food to the table
- Avoid lighting candles or fires when alone
- Switch off heated appliances as soon as you have finished using them
- Take care around barbeques and bonfires, especially if your seizures cause you to wander or fall
- Avoid having hard flooring or cover them with non-slip rugs / mats to reduce your chances of injury during a seizure
- Keep stairs and walkways free from obstacles
- Consider covering sharp edges (ie: of furniture)
- Consider using toughened safety glass or double glazing for doors and windows – or use a safety film to cover existing glass
- If you have seizures during sleep choose a low bed. Keep furniture or hard objects away from the bed.
- Use cordless appliances with automatic switch off and ensure electrical cables are not trailing
- Make sure wide opening windows and balconies have suitable locks or barriers to prevent falls during a seizure
- Avoid activities at height unless using a harness (eg ladders, zip-lines, rock climbing)
- Wear a helmet for activities such as cycling and a mouth guard for sport where required
- Stand back from the road or platform edge when waiting for a bus, train or ferry
- Use a lift instead of stairs or escalators if you can
- Use non-breakable crockery and minimise the use of knives by buying sliced food where possible
- Wear gloves to wash dishes and load a dishwasher with sharp points downwards
- Have an electrician to install a circuit breaker on your power supply
- Use an electric shaver instead a razor
- Use power tools with safety guards and automatic stop switches, and wear protective gear
Child Care Safety
- If you are caring for a child and you are at risk of seizures, start by childproofing the house
- Instead of carrying the child, use a stroller when possible. You may also wish to use a stroller safety wrist strap
- Change the baby on the floor
- Do not bath the baby when you are alone
- Feed the baby whilst sitting on a couch or bed so the child is supported easily
Help in an emergency
- Explain your seizures and what to do in an emergency to your friends and family so they can be prepared if you need assistance. Offer a copy of the first aid brochure. Ensure that someone who knows about your epilepsy has a key to your home, especially if you live alone
- Wear a medical alert or carry a wallet card so emergency services can quickly find out about your epilepsy.
- Put your emergency contact details into your phone
- Carry a copy of your epilepsy plan or a summary of your medications and allergies to assist with emergency care
SEE HERE FOR MORE TIPS AND RESOURCES TO HELP AVOID INJURY