Can Too Much Screen Time Cause Seizures? | MyEpilepsyTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyEpilepsyTeam
Powered By

Can Too Much Screen Time Cause Seizures?

Medically reviewed by Chiara Rocchi, M.D.
Posted on March 25, 2024

How many hours per day do you and your loved ones spend looking at computer monitors, tablets, and cell phones? “I’m wondering whether anyone else has noticed an increase in seizures because of an increase of screen time,” one MyEpilepsyTeam member asked.

In our technology-driven age, people with epilepsy and their caregivers often wonder if there is an association between screen time and epileptic seizures. In this article, we explore the research on the relationship between screen time and seizures.

Understanding Seizure Triggers

Before understanding the impact of screen time, it's crucial to understand epilepsy. Epilepsy is defined as a spectrum of disorders that involve abnormal activity within the brain. It’s characterized by repeated seizures, which are sudden and uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain. There are many different types of seizures, all with different causes and symptoms.

Various factors can trigger seizures, such as sleep deprivation, stress, and certain medications. Is excessive screen time one of these potential triggers? While the relationship hasn’t been directly studied, screen time is associated with many other well-established triggers.

Photosensitivity Can Cause Breakthrough Seizures

For a small percentage of people with epilepsy, flashing strobe lights or changes in visual patterns could be a trigger for seizures. Called photosensitive epilepsy, this type of epilepsy is more likely to occur in children and adolescents.

These flashing lights can appear on phones, televisions, or computers with no warning at all. Video games, television channels, and even TikTok videos can be extremely visually stimulating. The likelihood that these visual effects will cause a seizure is dependent on many factors. These include:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Flash frequency — How fast the flashes are occurring
  • Distance from the screen

Preventing Photosensitive Seizures From Screen Time

If you or your loved one with epilepsy knows that they have photosensitive epilepsy, here are some tips for safer screen time:

  • Turn down the brightness on your device.
  • Reduce the contrast of your screen.
  • Sit as far as possible from computer screens.
  • Avoid prolonged screen time by taking frequent breaks from work and social media. This will also help avoid excessive tiredness, which can be a trigger itself.
  • Wear polarized or nonglare glasses if you know you might be triggered.
  • If you’re suddenly exposed to a trigger, cover one eye at a time to help reduce the effect of the stimuli.
  • Stop watching a video that you know could be triggering
  • Substitute in some nonvisual forms of entertainment: “I’ve started to just relax and listen to podcasts for a while,” one member shared.

While it is hard to prevent any triggers from occurring, it’s important to know what to do when they happen.

Screen Time Can Cause Sleep Deprivation, a Trigger for Seizures

One study has looked at the association between screen time and lack of sleep in children living with epilepsy. Researchers showed that among 141 children with epilepsy — all under the age of 6 — daily screen-time exposure was higher and sleep duration was lower than recommended for their age group. Researchers also found a connection between increased screen time and disturbed sleep.

A lack of good-quality sleep is thought to make people with epilepsy more likely to have seizures. Because this study didn’t look at the number of breakthrough seizures these children had, further research is needed to assess the direct relationship between screen time, sleep, and seizures.

Stress Can Lead to Seizures

Another known trigger for seizures is severe recent or sudden stress. This may increase the number of seizures you experience. One explanation for this is a hormone called cortisol that is released when you experience stress. This hormone promotes seizure activity in people living with epilepsy.

How does this relate to screen time? “My screen time has increased due to school assignments,” one member said.

If your screen time is primarily at work or school, answering stressful emails and meeting assignments, there could be an association between screen time, stress, and seizures. For example, one member shared this anecdote: “I had two seizures at home right after working on the computer. I had been seizure-free for eight years prior. My doctor suggested it was stress-related.”

While the relationship between stressful screen time and breakthrough seizures has not been studied, it is important to practice self care and stress-reduction techniques, especially if you are spending most of your day in front of a screen.

Does Prolonged Screen Time Cause Seizures?

All in all, no studies have directly looked at the number of hours in a day people spend looking at screens and the number of seizures they experience. Still, many members have noticed a connection in their own lives. “Spending too much time on my phone,” one member said. “Looking at this screen for hours increases my seizure activity.”

Screen time can increase your risk for photosensitivity, worsened sleep, and stress, which are all associated with seizure risk. If you think that your screen time is affecting your epilepsy symptoms, try reducing your screen time, and consider speaking with your neurologist about tips to help better manage your condition.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyEpilepsyTeam, the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones, more than 120,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.

Have you experienced breakthrough seizures that you think may be related to your screen time? What tips do you have for reducing screen time? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 25, 2024
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

    We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

    You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
    Chiara Rocchi, M.D. completed medical school and neurology residency at Polytechnic Marche University in Italy. Learn more about her here.
    Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here.

    Related Articles

    For people with epilepsy, any illness — including ear infections — may raise the risk of seizure....

    Can Ear Infections Cause Seizures?

    For people with epilepsy, any illness — including ear infections — may raise the risk of seizure....
    A child living with severe epilepsy may experience one or more types of seizures, some of which a...

    What Do Severe Childhood Seizures Look Like?

    A child living with severe epilepsy may experience one or more types of seizures, some of which a...
    One in every 20,000 to 40,000 children has Dravet syndrome.Dravet syndrome seizures are hard to c...

    What Is Dravet Syndrome? Understanding Symptoms, Treatments, and More

    One in every 20,000 to 40,000 children has Dravet syndrome.Dravet syndrome seizures are hard to c...
    Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) is a severe type of epilepsy that causes seizures that typically be...

    Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

    Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) is a severe type of epilepsy that causes seizures that typically be...
    Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a rare genetic disorder that causes benign (noncancerous) tum...

    Tuberous Sclerosis Complex: Life Expectancy, Treatments, and More

    Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a rare genetic disorder that causes benign (noncancerous) tum...
    Although epileptic seizures can occur randomly and without warning, many people find that their s...

    10 Common Seizure Triggers and 9 Tips To Avoid Them

    Although epileptic seizures can occur randomly and without warning, many people find that their s...

    Recent Articles

    MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...

    Crisis Resources

    MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...
    Several antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) commonly cause weight gain or weight loss, but levetiracetam (...

    Keppra and Weight Change: Is It a Side Effect?

    Several antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) commonly cause weight gain or weight loss, but levetiracetam (...
    For millions of people with epilepsy, navigating daily life means balancing seizure control with ...

    Alcohol Consumption and Keppra: What Are the Effects?

    For millions of people with epilepsy, navigating daily life means balancing seizure control with ...
    “In a couple of days, I’ll feel the adrenaline rush of roller coasters!” a MyEpilepsyTeam member ...

    Riding Roller Coasters With Epilepsy: Is It Safe?

    “In a couple of days, I’ll feel the adrenaline rush of roller coasters!” a MyEpilepsyTeam member ...
    Have you ever wondered about the difference between Epidiolex, the first cannabidiol-based prescr...

    CBD Oils vs. Epidiolex: How Are They Different?

    Have you ever wondered about the difference between Epidiolex, the first cannabidiol-based prescr...
    Several members of MyEpilepsyTeam have mentioned skydiving is among their “bucket list” items. Bu...

    Can You Go Skydiving With Epilepsy?

    Several members of MyEpilepsyTeam have mentioned skydiving is among their “bucket list” items. Bu...
    MyEpilepsyTeam My epilepsy Team

    Thank you for subscribing!

    Become a member to get even more:

    sign up for free

    close