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Causes of Nocturnal Seizures

By Lysis ; Updated August 14, 2017

Nocturnal seizures are sleep-related seizures that occur at night. A person with this condition has a burst of movement that jerks the body awake. These types of seizures can happen several times a night, or they may be limited to rare occurrences. Nocturnal seizures are a form of epilepsy, so many of the symptoms, signs and causes are similar to epileptic seizures.

Fever and Vaccination

Fever is the body's way of destroying invading microbes. The body temperature rises above the sustainable environment for the bacteria or virus and occasionally kills it. Unfortunately, fever is also the cause of seizures (called fibrile seizures), especially in children. These types of episodes can occur several times a day and at night, causing nocturnal seizures. A child who has nocturnal seizures due to fever is not in danger of developing epilepsy later in life.

Some debate was brought up several years ago that caused scientists to look into the possibility that the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine caused seizures in children. It was found, though, that these seizures were triggered by a preexisting condition that led to day and nocturnal seizures in children after they received the vaccine.


The skull protects the brain from trauma like bumping the head or getting hit with an object. However, strong forces can crack the skull or cause damage to the brain even with the hard exterior protection. This damage can lead to swelling and ultimately seizures. Nocturnal seizures may happen several years after the trauma incident. Children can also have nocturnal seizures after severe head trauma.

Tumors and stroke that permanently damage the brain also cause seizures. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which the cerebral spinal fluid builds up in the brain, causing pressure. These conditions don't normally cause nocturnal seizures, but the use of a shunt to drain the fluid from the head can lead to the condition.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Alcohol and drugs can also lead to seizures. There is a high chance of seizures in alcoholics who drank heavily and detox from substance abuse. Patients detoxing from severe alcohol abuse are encouraged to do so in a clinic where the patient's health can be observed. The first nocturnal seizure can occur from several hours to two days after cessation from alcohol and some drugs.

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