Festive drinking advice for people with epilepsy

13th December 2019

With the festive season upon us, we thought now would be a good time to touch on the effects of alcohol with people who have epilepsy. Of course, at this time of year it is much more tempting to enjoy a drink with more social events and many people having time off work with friends and family.

Alcohol is a well known trigger to seizures that can put people at risk for up to 6 and 48 hours after consuming. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a drink this Christmas should you wish to, but it’s important to be responsible whilst drinking. 

How much alcohol is too much alcohol? 

There’s no hard and fast rule on the amount of alcohol that is acceptable. Everyone is different and some people may experience no change. We would always advise that people with epilepsy exercise caution, if in doubt you can always adhere to the NHS guidelines on safe drinking for everyone, which states no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. 

Why does alcohol induce seizures? 

There are a number of reasons that alcohol can increase the likelihood of triggering a seizure. For one, alcohol can severely affect the quality of sleep, especially REM sleep. REM sleep is really important for recharging the body, lack of REM sleep is known to increase the chances of a seizure. 

Furthermore, if your epilepsy is managed with the use of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), your dosage can be affected by consuming alcohol. In effect, drinking can reduce the amount of AEDs in your system leading to an increased chance of seizures. In some cases, drinking alcohol can also increase the side effects of AEDs and make a person feel more drunk than they usually would. This is also dependent upon the type of AED, so it’s worth checking the guidance on the leaflet to see if your prescription does interact with alcohol. 

Finally, when drinking some people can forget to take their epilepsy medications altogether. This can have an effect that leads to an increased chance of seizures, especially the following day. 

Some general tips for drinking over Christmas 

If you are going to drink alcohol this Christmas, there are some general things that you can do to minimise the risk of triggering a seizure, these include: 

  • Exercise moderation
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks 
  • Try not to interrupt your sleeping schedule too much 
  • Remember to take your AEDs as usual
  • Eat before drinking 
  • Avoid high proof alcohol wherever possible

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information and advice on alcohol and epilepsy, please call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk