Epilepsy Treatment Overview
Traditional epilepsy treatments can sometimes have side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, and upset stomach. These side effects rarely develop into anything worse, but they can be extremely uncomfortable. Some traditional seizure medications may become less effective over time. Your doctor will probably try several treatments to find the one that works best for you.
Melatonin, a hormone, has shown some positive signs in preventing seizures. Learn more about it, and speak with your doctor before you start taking it.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder in which you have recurring seizures. The symptoms of epilepsy range from having a blank stare to total unconsciousness. You must have two seizures with no obvious cause before you can be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Epileptic seizures are identified as either focal or generalized. Focal seizures involve one part of your brain. General seizures involve all parts of your brain.
- head injuries
- some infectious diseases
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Epileptic seizures can leave you at risk of harm when performing common activities. This can cause other dangerous complications. For instance, you can lose control of your car if you have a seizure while driving. You can drown if you have a seizure while swimming. You can also injure your skull or other bones if you fall during a seizure.
Epilepsy can cause issues for both a mother and child during pregnancy. It has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and other emotional health issues.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in your brain. It’s also available in a synthetic form as a supplement. This supplement is commonly used as an alternative medicine for various ailments, such as insomnia and anxiety.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), melatonin helps regulate your body’s internal body clock. It plays a very important role in telling your body when it’s time to fall asleep and when it’s time to wake up. Your body produces more melatonin at night or whenever you’re in a dark environment. Less of the hormone is produced in brightly lit environments or during the day.
Melatonin supplements can help bring back an appropriate sleep cycle. You can take the synthetic form of the hormone to help your body adjust from jet lag, work schedule changes, and sleep problems.
Although it’s less common, the hormone can be used as an alternative treatment for:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- irritable bowel syndrome
Melatonin and Epilepsy
Melatonin levels fluctuate if you have epilepsy. At rest, people with epilepsy have melatonin levels that are lower than average. These low melatonin levels may contribute to seizures. Melatonin levels dramatically increase during seizures, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Clinical tests have looked at how melatonin supplements affect seizures, and the results have been mixed. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one study showed that children who took melatonin supplements at bedtime had reduced seizures.
However, not all studies support the use of melatonin. According to NIH, one study found that people who took melatonin actually had more seizures.
Melatonin can be useful for children who have trouble falling asleep. It can also help children with epilepsy, ADHD, autism, and other conditions that cause sleep problems in children. Talk to your child’s doctor before giving your child any dose of melatonin.
Melatonin supplements are neither regulated nor approved by the FDA for treating epilepsy or sleep difficulties. Because of this, doctors often recommend that you give your child the lowest dose possible. Most children only need 0.5 to 3 milligrams. In addition to melatonin, establishing a bedtime routine can also help treat sleep problems caused by epilepsy.
Melatonin Side Effects
Low levels of melatonin are usually associated with:
- noticeable sleep problems
- conditions such as dementia
- mood disorders
Melatonin supplements can cause negative side effects. These include mild anxiety, irritability, and temporary feelings of depression. Taking too much melatonin can make these effects worse.
What Health Professionals Say
Research on melatonin as a treatment for epilepsy is mixed. Melatonin may improve your physical and social well-being. However, melatonin can also worsen seizures in children with brain disabilities.
Further study is needed to test melatonin as a treatment for epileptic seizures.
Talk to Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about trying melatonin as a treatment. It’s very important not to take medicine without your doctor’s approval. Mixing melatonin with other epilepsy medications can be dangerous. Take melatonin for your epilepsy with care, and establish a regular sleep routine to help your body produce more melatonin.