How to Sleep with Ambulatory EEG

boy demonstrating how to sleep during an EEG

Some Tips and Tricks from EEG Technologists and Patients Who have Participated in Long-term Studies

Ambulatory EEG studies can be very beneficial in helping diagnose epilepsy. With modern EEG technology, these studies are less invasive than ever. This doesn’t mean these recordings are without inconveniences for the patient, however a few tips can help ensure the study is more comfortable and successful. Long-term EEG studies must continue uninterrupted, usually for 72-96 hours. This means a patient will have electrodes attached to their scalp for up to three days – and the patient will need to get some well-earned sleep eventually. It’s important to know how to sleep with ambulatory EEG – whether you’re a patient or an EEG technologist. Here are some tips to help anyone fall asleep comfortably and naturally without interfering with the EEG recording equipment.

Sleep in a Cool Place

It’s important that you stay cool during a study for a couple of reasons; not only will you sleep better if you aren’t overheated, but you’ll also not sweat. Sweating can cause the electrodes to unstick or lose contact with your skin. The whole purpose of the study is to collect the electrical signals from your brain, and the electrodes do the work, so you want to do anything you can to preserve it – or else you may have to do another. Make sure the patient is able to sleep in a cool room with sheets and blankets nearby if they get cold. If the study includes video, some modesty can be afforded to the patient if they wear pajamas, so a cool room can help them be more comfortable, particularly in the summer.

The Head Wrap Makes a Big Difference

Wrapping the electrodes and wires in a neat bundle is a skill that can take time to perfect. If you wrap too tightly, the patient will be uncomfortable and less likely to sleep soundly. If you wrap too loosely, you risk wires or leads disconnecting or becoming tangled – risking the loss of precious data. The quality of the wrap will play a large part in how well the leads stay connected. While the experience of having a bunch of wires glued to your head is never comfortable, EEG techs can do their best to make the study as unobtrusive as possible. Try to strike a balance to ensure that even if a patient moves around while they sleep, the study can continue without interruption. Proper cable management is crucial anytime you are working with a variety of cords and wires. Read more here about creating the perfect EEG head wrap.

how to sleep with ambulatory eeg

Keep the Device and Wires Above the Head

This next step is something EEG techs should take extra caution to tell their patients: keep the wires neatly bundled and above your head when sleeping, if possible. If the bundle of wires is going up and over the pillow while a patient sleeps, the chances of the patient getting tangled up in their own wires decreases if they flip over during the night. Young children especially may not consider this when they go to bed, so make sure they are aware before you leave.

Get Comfortable

There are many tools that you can use to help a patient get a good night’s sleep. Keep the head elevated with soft pillows or towels so the electrodes aren’t being jostled as the patient sleeps.  If a patient has difficulty sleeping in their bed, try suggesting they use a comfortable reclining chair. This may also be a good suggestion for patients who tend to move or thrash around when they sleep since movement will be limited in the chair.

If possible, use whatever you can to make this process easier for the patient so they can sleep comfortably while encouraging them to follow their standard bedtime procedures. If a patient isn’t sleeping like they normally would, there is the potential for losing valuable data that could lead to an accurate diagnosis.  After all, brain activity doesn’t stop when the patient is asleep. It’s important that absence seizures are found during REM sleep if they occur.

Need to Know More?

We have a list of ambulatory EEG dos and don’ts. Patients may have a lot of questions, so we were happy to provide answers.

This educational information is brought to you by Lifelines Neuro. See more of our helpful EEG resources.