Meet Dr. Ryan HaysEpilepsy and Sleep Disorders Specialist in Dallas

Ryan Hays, M.D., is one of only a handful of U.S. neurologists who are fellowship-trained to evaluate and treat patients with epilepsy and sleep disorders. He is board-certified in four disciplines: neurology, clinical neurophysiology, epilepsy, and sleep medicine.

As Medical Director of William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital’s epilepsy and electroencephalography (EEG) services, he oversees the management of patients with refractory epilepsy. He also identifies patients who may be candidates for neurosurgery when medications do not effectively control their seizures.

Dr. Hays also leads the sleep medicine service at Parkland Health & Hospital System. He is an expert in diagnosing and treating all types of sleep disorders – from restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and circadian rhythm disorders to sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

He has special expertise in diagnosing parasomnias (sleep disorders that cause abnormal sleep-related behaviors) and distinguishing them from sleep-related/nocturnal seizures. This distinction can be difficult to make and is key to appropriate treatment.

Focused on Better Diagnosis and Treatment

While Dr. Hays’ subspecialties may seem unrelated, there is substantial overlap in many of his patients. For example, patients with seizures have a significantly higher rate of sleep disorders compared to the general population.

“We believe that by identifying and treating these comorbid sleep disorders, we can improve the quality of life and potentially reduce the number of seizures in our patients with epilepsy,” he says.

That makes Dr. Hays’ dual training especially beneficial to patients.

“Using sophisticated techniques such as video monitoring coupled with sensors that monitor brainwave activity, breathing, heart rate, and limb movements, I can perform highly specialized diagnostic testing in both the Sleep Lab and the EEG Lab,” he says. “This helps us correctly diagnose and appropriately treat patients with sleep or seizure disorders.”

The importance of providing an accurate assessment cannot be overstated, Dr. Hays says.

“Patients who are misdiagnosed and prescribed the wrong class of agents are unlikely to improve and may be exposed to the side effects of unnecessary treatment.”

Thankfully, he says, UT Southwestern is equipped to expertly evaluate and treat people experiencing the full spectrum of sleep and seizure disorders.

“The expertise, experience, and sophisticated tools and techniques available at our Level 4 Epilepsy Center and Clinical Center for Sleep and Breathing Disorders enable us to offer patients cutting-edge treatments that are second to none.”

In addition to patient care, Dr. Hays is involved in ongoing research into the neural networks that play a role in both epilepsy and in various sleep disorders.

“We think that a better understanding of these neural networks may help us understand why some patients have certain neurologic conditions in the first place. For example, some patients have seizures only during their sleep or only during wakefulness,” he notes. “In these patients, a better understanding of how the sleep/wake systems in the brain interface with the cortical regions of the brain that cause seizures provides better insight into the mechanisms of their disease, and will hopefully guide us to better treatments.”