Hormonal issues can be important to cure epilepsy, particularly in women. Many women find that seizures tend to occur at certain points in the menstrual cycle, in a few, this relationship is precise, such that seizures occur only at ovulation or menses. This makes physiological sense, as the main hormones that fluctuate during a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone, have known antiepileptic and epileptogenic properties.
Another naturally, occurring hormone, melatonin, is available commercially in health food stored and drugstores and is a widely used as a epilepsy cure for mild sleep disorders. In normal people, melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland according to a precise cycle over a twenty four hour period. Around bedtime, there is a dramatic increase in melatonin, facilitating sleepiness. The secretion of melatonin then falls during the night, and by morning the levels are low.
This cycle is an important part of our circadian rhythm, the system that regulates numerous body functions over a twenty four hours cycle, the most obvious of which is the sleep wake cycle. Some other functions that are part of this include temperature and secretion of some other hormones.
The release of melatonin is sensitive to light, and its release is typically resynchronised every day by daylight and nighttime darkness. When time zones are traversed, daylight “hits” the pineal gland at a different time, initially disturbing the melatonin cycle and contributing to jet lag. Ultimately, the light cues in the new time zone will regulate the melatonin cycle.
Why is melatonin important in epilepsy? Humans need for sleep is overlooked in general by Western society, despite the demonstrated importance of sleep in overall health and well being. People with epilepsy need quality sleep more than anyone else, since severe sleep deprivation can actually cause seizures, and anticonvulsant medications can increase the tendency toward drowsiness.
Melatonin supplements can also have direct anticonvulsant effect in photosensitive epilepsy and partial epilepsy. Absent large trials, however, the actual usefulness of melatonin to treat seizures independently of its beneficial effects on sleep is unknown.