Sleep Architecture in Children with Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. R. Maganti at Marshfield Clinic-Neurology, 2727 Plaza Drive, Wausau, WI 53792, U.S.A.


Summary: Purpose: Children with epilepsy experience sleep disturbances, behavioral and attentional problems at higher rates than their peers. However, the relation between sleep disturbances and the observed behavioral and attentional abnormalities is poorly defined.

Methods: Children with primary generalized epilepsy who were seizure free and between the ages of 5 and 18 years were matched with age- and gender-matched healthy controls and underwent two consecutive nights of nocturnal polysomnography with extended electroencephalography. Connor's Continuous Performance Test (CPT) was administered to assess daytime attentional function. Parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to assess their emotional-behavioral status. Two sample t tests were used to examine group differences. Spearman correlations were used to examine the relation between sleep variables and behavior and attention variables. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify independent predictors of abnormal behavior and attention among patients.

Results: Eleven children with primary generalized epilepsy and eight age- and sex-matched controls participated in the study. Children with epilepsy had longer stage 1 sleep percentage (7.19 ± 3.2 vs. 4.8 ± 3.5; p = 0.05) and latency to rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (123.5 ± 40.1 vs. 101.75 ± 24.3; p = 0.018) compared with controls. Children with epilepsy had worse attention (CPT index, 10.94 ± 6.55 vs. 3.42 ± 4.04; p = 0.004) and exhibited significantly higher CBCL Total Behavior and Internalizing Behavior Problem scales. Whereas regression analysis showed no independent predictors of abnormal behavior and attention, a tendency toward association between CBCL total behavior scale and REM percentage (r= 0.55; p = 0.07), and between CPT overall index and stage 1 sleep percentage (r= 0.40; p = 0.10) was noted.

Conclusions: Sleep architecture is abnormal in children with primary generalized epilepsy. Further studies are needed to determine whether abnormalities in sleep architecture contribute to poor daytime behavior and attention.