How to Sleep with an Ambulatory EEG

If you have been scheduled to have an ambulatory EEG, you might be wondering how to get a good night’s sleep with electrodes attached to your scalp. This non-invasive test is used to diagnose a range of neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, seizures, and sleep disorders. The test involves wearing a portable EEG device that records your brain waves over 24 to 72 hours, depending on your doctor’s instructions. We will share some tips and strategies that can help you sleep comfortably and minimize interference with the test.

What is an Ambulatory EEG?

An ambulatory EEG is a diagnostic test that records your brain activity over a period of time using a portable device. Unlike an inpatient EEG, which is conducted in a hospital or clinic setting, an ambulatory EEG allows you to go about your daily activities while the test is being performed. The electrodes that are attached to your scalp transmit the data wirelessly to a recording device that you wear on your body.

Why Do You Need an Ambulatory EEG?

Your doctor may recommend an ambulatory EEG if you are experiencing symptoms that suggest a neurological condition, such as seizures, blackouts, or episodes of confusion. The test can help your doctor to diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms, and to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.

How to Prepare for an Ambulatory EEG

Before your ambulatory EEG, your doctor will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for the test. Some general tips include:

•           Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine for at least 24 hours before the test

•           Washing your hair thoroughly and avoiding hair products such as hairspray, gel, or oil

•           Wearing loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to remove and put back on

•           Bringing a list of your current medications, including any over-the-counter or herbal supplements

What to Expect During an Ambulatory EEG

During the ambulatory EEG, you will be asked to wear a portable EEG device that is attached to your scalp with electrodes. The device is small and lightweight, and can be worn on a belt, shoulder strap, or backpack. You will be instructed to go about your normal daily routine, but you may be asked to perform certain activities that can trigger your symptoms, such as hyperventilation or sleep deprivation.

How to Sleep with an Ambulatory EEG

Sleeping with an ambulatory EEG can be challenging, but it is important to get as much restful sleep as possible during the test. Here are some tips that can help:

•           Choose a Comfortable Sleeping Position

You may need to experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that is most comfortable with the electrodes attached to your scalp. Some people find it helpful to sleep on their back, while others prefer to sleep on their side.

•           Use Pillows for Support

Using pillows to support your head and neck can help to reduce discomfort and prevent the electrodes from shifting during the night. You may also want to use a pillow to support your knees or other body parts that need extra cushioning. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can help to minimize interference with the electrodes and allow you to move more freely during the night. Avoid wearing tight clothing or clothing with metal fastenings, such as zippers or buttons, as these can interfere with the test results.

•           Use a Soft Cap or Headband

Some people find it helpful to wear a soft cap or headband to keep the electrodes in place and prevent them from rubbing against their scalp. You can purchase these accessories from medical supply stores or online retailers.

•           Avoid Sleeping on Wet Hair

It is important to ensure that your hair is completely dry before you go to bed, as wet or damp hair can interfere with the electrodes and cause discomfort. You may need to wash your hair earlier in the day and allow it to air dry before you start the test.

Tips for Sleeping with an Ambulatory EEG

In addition to the above strategies, here are some additional tips that can help you sleep comfortably during an ambulatory EEG:

•           Avoid napping during the day, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

•           Try to establish a regular sleep routine in the days leading up to the test, including going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

•           Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, such as watching TV or using electronic devices, as these can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

•           Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, to help you unwind and fall asleep more easily.

•           If you are having trouble sleeping, try getting up and doing a quiet activity, such as reading or listening to music, until you feel drowsy again.

Strategies for Coping with Discomfort

Although most people find that the electrodes and device used in an ambulatory EEG are relatively comfortable, some people may experience mild discomfort or irritation. Here are some strategies that can help:

•           Use a soft cloth or cotton ball to clean the area around the electrodes if you experience itching or irritation.

•           Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly or a mild topical anesthetic, such as lidocaine, to the area around the electrodes to reduce discomfort.

•           Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if you experience headaches or muscle soreness.


Getting a good night’s sleep with an ambulatory EEG may require some preparation and experimentation, but by following the tips and strategies outlined in this article, you can minimize discomfort and ensure accurate test results. If you have any concerns or questions about the test, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.