Department of Neurology

What is the post-ictal state?

Q: When ever I have a grand mal seizure I get a terrible headache that lasts for several hours. I also get very sleepy and usually can sleep almost 24 hours straight afterwards. Can you tell me why?

-- Carla

A: After tonic-clonic ("grand mal") seizures and often after complex partial ("psychotmotor") seizures, there is a "post-ictal state." During the post-ictal state is typical for persons to have confusion, severe headaches, and grogginess. This may last minutes, up to hours and even many hours. Why this occurs is unclear, but may be related to inhibitory mechanisms, i.e., the brain's attempt to slow down its activity in order to suppress the seizure.

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