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seizure triggers

Triggers are situations that can bring on a seizure in some people with epilepsy. Some people's seizures are brought on by certain situations. Triggers can differ from person to person, but common triggers include tiredness and lack of sleep, stress, alcohol, and not taking medication. For some people, if they know what triggers their seizures, they may be able to avoid these triggers and so lessen the chances of having a seizure.

What's the difference between triggers and causes?

Triggers for seizures are not the same as causes for epilepsy. A trigger for someone to have their first seizure may be a stressful situation, but the underlying cause for that person to start having seizures may be quite different. Causes can be genetic or as a result of structural damage to the brain. See more about causes of epilepsy.

Because epilepsy can develop at any time of life, it can sometimes be difficult to work out why seizures have started. If you have a seizure, it may seem to make sense that there must be a particular cause, such as stress, or alcohol, for example. However, the likelihood of having a seizure at some point may have been there already for you, and the stress or alcohol has triggered it.

You can download a PDF seizure diary or get a printed seizure diary from our shop

A hand holding some medication

Not taking medication

Sometimes called ‘intentional non-adherence’, this is where someone decides not to take the medication as agreed. This might be deciding not to take it at all or deciding to take it but differently to how it was prescribed.

A woman sleeping

Sleep and epilepsy

Lack of sleep can trigger seizures for some people. In some types of epilepsy seizures can happen as someone is waking up and for a few hours afterwards. 

A range of alcoholic drinks

Alcohol, drugs and epilepsy

Alcohol is a common trigger for seizures, especially in the hangover period when your brain is dehydrated. Recreational drugs can trigger seizures for some people and can also interact with medication. 

A man with a sparkler

Photosensitive epilepsy

For some people, seizures can be triggered by flashing or flickering lights or patterns. This is called photosensitive epilepsy. Photosensitive epilepsy affects only up to 3% of people with epilepsy.

A painting of some musical notes

Music and epilepsy

Music is part of our everyday life and culture. For most people, listening to or playing music is a pleasurable experience. But for people with epilepsy, the relationship with music can be far more complex.

Free smartphone app

Our free smartphone app contains seizure management tools, including a seizure diary to help you monitor your triggers. It is available on both iPhone and Android phones.