Seizure triggers

Some things make seizures more likely for some people with epilepsy. These are often called ‘triggers’.

Triggers don’t cause epilepsy, but they make seizures more likely. Identifying and avoiding your triggers, where possible, could help you to have fewer seizures.

A man holding his head looking tired suggesting the effects of seizure triggers

Examples of triggers

Not all people with epilepsy have seizure triggers. And the things that trigger one person’s seizures might not affect other people with epilepsy in the same way.

Here are some of the seizure triggers that have been reported by people with epilepsy:

  • Not taking epilepsy medicine as prescribed

    Taking epilepsy medicines regularly, as prescribed by the doctor, will help to keep a steady level of the medicine in your blood.

    Several studies have shown that missing a dose of your epilepsy medicine increases the risk of you having a seizure.

  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well

    Many people with epilepsy say that feeling tired or not sleeping well can trigger seizures.

    Find out more
  • Stress

    It’s not known exactly why stress might trigger seizures. But many people with epilepsy say that if they are feeling stressed, they are more likely to have a seizure.

    For some people, feeling stressed can lead to other things, such as changing sleeping or eating habits, drinking more alcohol, and feeling anxious or depressed. All of these can also increase your risk of having a seizure.

    Find out more
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs

    Some people with epilepsy drink alcohol and some people don’t. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to drink alcohol. But if you decide to drink alcohol, bear in mind that alcohol can make seizures more likely.

    Drinking more than modest amounts of alcohol in 24 hours can increase the risk of having seizures. After heavy drinking, the risk is highest when the alcohol is leaving your body. This risk is usually between 6 and 48 hours after you’ve stopped drinking.

    Find out more


    Recreational drugs include illegal drugs and ‘legal highs’. There is no control over what goes into these drugs. They can be dangerous and they can trigger seizures.

  • Flashing or flickering lights

    Around 3 in 100 people with epilepsy have seizures that are triggered by flashing or flickering lights, or some patterns. This is called photosensitive epilepsy.

    If you have photosensitive epilepsy, both natural and artificial light may trigger seizures. Some patterns, like stripes or checks, can also trigger seizures for some people with photosensitive epilepsy. You would usually have a seizure when you are looking at the trigger, or shortly after.

    Find out more
  • Monthly periods

    Some people with epilepsy find that they are more likely to have seizures at certain times of their menstrual cycle (periods).

    Find out more
  • Missing meals

    Some people with epilepsy say that if they skip meals, they are more likely to have a seizure.

  • Having an illness which causes a high temperature

    Some people say that they are more likely to have seizures when they have an illness, such as an infection that causes a high temperature.

How can I recognise my triggers?

Keeping a seizure diary is a good way to try and find out what might trigger your seizures.

Every time you have a seizure, record it and make a note of what you were doing and how you were feeling. If you do this over time, you might see a pattern emerging.

Epilepsy Action has more information about keeping a seizure diary.

Epilepsy and your wellbeing

Want to improve your wellbeing?

Take a look at our free online course.

This course includes information about triggers and much more.

Start the course

How to avoid seizure triggers

There are some things you can do to avoid your seizure triggers. These include:

  • Remembering to always take your epilepsy medicine
  • Having a good sleep routine
  • Trying to reduce your stress
  • Limiting how much alcohol you drink
  • Avoiding flashing or flickering lights (if you have photosensitive epilepsy)
  • Talking to your doctor if your seizures follow a pattern connected to your menstrual cycle
  • Eating regular meals

Epilepsy Action’s booklet and web pages about epilepsy and wellbeing have more detailed information about lifestyle changes which could reduce your risk of seizures.

Useful downloads

Download a seizure diary

A seizure diary is a good way of recording information about your epilepsy.

Published: May 2020
Last modified: December 2023
To be reviewed: May 2023
Tracking: F09.05
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