First seizure from sleep: Clinical features and prognosis

Nicholas D. Lawn, Elaine W. Pang, Judy Lee, John W. Dunne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Patients with a first-ever unprovoked seizure commonly have subsequent seizures and identifying predictors of recurrence has important management implications. Both prior brain insult and epileptiform abnormalities on electroencephalography (EEG) are established predictors of seizure recurrence. Some studies suggest that a first-ever seizure from sleep has a higher likelihood of recurrence. However, with relatively small numbers and inconsistent definitions, more data are required. Methods: Prospective cohort study of adults with first-ever unprovoked seizure seen by a hospital-based first seizure service between 2000 and 2015. Clinical features and outcomes of first-ever seizure from sleep and while awake were compared. Results: First-ever unprovoked seizure occurred during sleep in 298 of 1312 patients (23%), in whom the 1-year cumulative risk of recurrence was 56.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 51.3–62.6) compared to 44.2% (95% CI 41.1–47.3, p <.0001) for patients with first-ever seizure while awake. First-ever seizure from sleep was an independent predictor of seizure recurrence, with a hazard ratio [HR] of 1.44 (95% CI 1.23–1.69), similar to epileptiform abnormalities on EEG (HR 1.48, 95% CI 1.24–1.76) and remote symptomatic etiology (HR 1.47, 95% CI 1.27–1.71). HR for recurrence in patients without either epileptiform abnormalities or remote symptomatic etiology was 1.97 (95% CI 1.60–2.44) for a sleep seizure compared to an awake seizure. For first seizure from sleep, 76% of second seizures also arose from sleep (p <.0001), with 65% of third seizures (p <.0001) also from sleep. Seizures from sleep were less likely to be associated with injury other than orolingual trauma, both with the presenting seizure (9.4% vs 30.6%, p <.0001) and first recurrence (7.5% vs 16.3%, p =.001). Significance: First-ever unprovoked seizures from sleep are more likely to recur, independent of other risk factors, with recurrences also usually from sleep, and with a lower risk of seizure-related injury. These findings may inform treatment decisions and counseling after first-ever seizure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2714-2724
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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