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Lifestyle & Triggers

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Taking control of your epilepsy is an important part of managing your condition. In addition to taking your Anti-Seizure Medication there are other things you can actively do - or not do - to help reduce seizure frequency. This page outlines potential triggers that people with epilepsy can experience - some can be avoidable while others are less easy to avoid. However, being aware of what triggers your seizures is an important aspect in managing the condition. It is important to note that due to the individual nature of epilepsy, not all the triggers listed will apply.

Alongside the information contained within this entire section of our website, we also have a comprehensive booklet available entitled 'Safety and Seizures'. This resource is available to read and download on our website.

If you need further information or support after reading this section of our website, please do not hesitate to contact your local Community Resource Officer. You can find their details by visiting the 'Our Local Service' section of our website.

Potential Triggers

The below is a list of potential seizure triggers that people with epilepsy can experience, which are commonly mentioned to our services:

  • Missed Medication - For many, not taking your medication as prescribed can lead to seizures. If remembering to take your medications is a problem, consider getting a pill dispenser (available from pharmacies), use reminder alerts on your phone or use the Epilepsy Ireland Epilepsy Management app.   
  • Stress & Emotional distress - Many people with epilepsy point to stress as being a factor in triggering their seizures. Stress can come from many sources; a demanding workload in school or in a job, unemployment, the stress of a new diagnosis of epilepsy, pressure of finances, marriage, family problems, arguments, conflict, bereavement or loss etc. If stress triggers your seizures, it is important to learn more about techniques to manage your stress. You can discuss these by getting in touch with your local Epilepsy Ireland Community Resource Officer, who can advise on Epilepsy Ireland events which may be of benefit, or point to other resources that are available. More tailored counselling may be required if you are experiencing emotional distress
  • Sleep Being overtired can reduce the body's resilience which therefore reduces a person's seizure threshold. Having a regular sleep pattern and avoiding late nights if possible can to reduce the impact of this potential trigger. If planning a late night, try to compensate by napping earlier in the day. If sleep is broken for lengthy periods, seek medical advice and talk to your GP
  • Alcohol - Overuse of alcohol can trigger seizures in many people with epilepsy. Alcohol can interfere with ASMs and can prevent them from reaching the levels necessary in the bloodstream necessary to control seizures. In addition, heavy drinking is often associated with late night, lack of sleep, missed meals and loss of routine - all of these are likely to increase the risk of having a seizure. It is best to keep your intake moderate or as advised by your doctor. We have further information on alcohol within this Lifestyle section of our website.
  • Skipping mealsAim to have a regular pattern of meals - do not skip mealtimes even when busy. Missing meals can reduce the energy in the body, which therefore reduces seizure threshold. Poor nutrition may also lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals so ensure you have a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Stimulants - The use of stimulant substances such as street drugs and energy drinks with high levels of caffeine should be avoided. Withdrawal from alcohol or street drugs can trigger seizures; if you are struggling with substance abuse, seek support from your GP.  
  • Physical activityOverexertion, or being too inactive, can lead to increased seizures. Take a sensible approach to exercise, know your fitness levels and limits and pace yourself.

Difficult to Avoid Triggers

Other potential triggers for people with epilepsy can be more difficult to avoid. However, even with the fact that they are difficult to avoid, it is important to be aware of them so necessary precautions can be taken:

  • Menstrual Periods - This only would apply in some cases only, particularly with those living with Catamenial epilepsy.
  • Flashing Lights -  This would be a trigger for those diagnosed with Photosensitive epilepsy. The exact triggering sequence can vary from person to person. However, between 3-30 hertz (flashes per second) are the common rates to trigger seizures.
  • Sickness - Illness, injury and pain, fever with high temperatures can be a seizure trigger for many. Take care to reduce temperature and seek treatment for illness and injuries from your GP.
  • Breathing -  Hyperventilation, and conversely breath holding; If either is a problem seek your GP's advice
  • HormonesHormonal disturbances and changes can trigger seizures for some e.g. menopause; Metabolic disturbances
  • Sounds/Noise -Specific sound (e.g. sudden loud noise), visual (lights or geometric pattern) and touch (texture) stimuli. If you are triggered by any of these you should inform others who may expose you to them and try to avoid strong contrasting patterns, disco lights, noisy machinery or whatever stimulus triggers you.
  • Changing Time ZonesWhen travelling on long haul trips, changes of time zone may disrupt sleep patterns and medication schedules. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor some weeks in advance of departure, so that any necessary adjustments can be accommodated.

Recording Triggers

When you read this list aim to be as honest as possible in trying to identify any triggers in your lifestyle which may impact on your seizure pattern and which you could avoid or minimise. Where seizures are related to lifestyle issues, you alone have the power and the choice to try to reduce them or perhaps even to eliminate them, which should benefit both your health and general well being.

A seizure diary can help you to identify some triggers, such as lack of sleep, too much alcohol, stress or forgetting tablets. Sometimes there is no obvious trigger, seizures just happen. It may help to think of which triggers are easier or harder to avoid and make a plan around them. Seizure diary templates are available for download at the end of this page. We also have an app which may help to record your seizures and triggers. Visit the 'Our Services' section of our website for further details on this. 


Self-management and self-care describes ways in which a person with epilepsy can take control over the lifestyle and emotional impact of their condition. This can be done by reducing or avoiding triggers but also by increasing personal wellness and coping skills. Some hospitals may run self-management or stress reduction classes for their own patients, while Epilepsy Ireland has several offerings which aim to help a person with the self-management of the condition. You can learn more about some of these by visiting the 'Our Services' section of our website; or by visiting the 'Events' section of our website.

Alternatively, you can contact your local Community Resource Officer to learn about upcoming events which may be of interest/benefit to you - or seek one to one support from our team. You can find your local Community Resource Officer's details by visiting the 'Our Services' Section of our website.