The cells in your brain communicate with your muscles, nerves, and other parts of your brain through electrical signals. These signals can go haywire, sending too many or too few messages. When these signals go haywire, it results in a seizure and, on rare occasions, nocturnal seizures while someone is asleep. As a form of epilepsy, it can cause abnormal behavior and movement. 

What is A Nocturnal Seizure

A nocturnal seizure is rare and usually lasts less than five minutes. There are various types of nocturnal seizures, but most are tonic-clonic seizures. Tonic-clonic seizures, previously known as grand mal seizures, are characterized by stiffness and jerking motions. The seizure occurs in three stages: the aura phase, the tonic phase, and the clonic phase. During the aura phase, a person may experience an abnormal sensation. During the tonic phase, a person’s muscles will stiffen. This can cause them to bite their tongue or lose control of their bladder or bowels. During the clonic phase, their muscles may twitch. Immediately after the seizure, it may be difficult to wake the person. People that suffer from nocturnal seizures are in more danger than others with different types of seizures. 

Symptoms of a Nocturnal Seizure

Some symptoms of a nocturnal seizure are crying out or making unusual noises, especially right before the muscles tense. The person may suddenly appear very rigid, wet the bed, twitch in their sleep, or bite their tongue. People suffering from nocturnal seizures may also fall out of bed, have difficulty waking up, or wake up suddenly for no reason. A person is most likely to have a nocturnal seizure right when they go to sleep, right before they wake up, or right after they wake up. 

During a tonic-clonic seizure specifically, a person’s symptoms change from stage to stage. For example, in the aura stage, a person can be nauseous, get vertigo, or have anxiety. In the tonic stage, a person can experience muscle stiffness, loss of consciousness, moaning, screaming, crying out involuntarily, foaming at the mouth, or drooling at the mouth. In the clonic stage, a person can experience jerking movements of the arms and legs, facial muscle contractions, loss of bladder or bowel control during or after the seizure.  

Causes of a Nocturnal Seizure

All seizures are caused by unusual electrical activity in the brain, but nocturnal seizures are more likely to occur with certain types of epilepsy. A person already suffering from nocturnal seizures could be triggered by a lack of sleep. Tonic-clonic seizures can be triggered by head injury, infection, drug or alcohol withdrawal, or low levels of minerals.  

Where to Get Treated or Diagnosed 

If you wonder why your body shakes in your sleep, it could be a nocturnal seizure. It is important to go to a doctor or sleep specialist. A nocturnal seizure could be a one-time seizure, but if you have a history of epilepsy, this could be cause for concern. At Jacksonville Sleep Center, you can discuss your experiences with a sleep specialist and find the best treatment for you. Book today!