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What is a Sleep-Deprived EEG?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A sleep-deprived electroencephalogram (EEG) is an EEG that is performed on a person who has experienced a less-than-normal amount of sleep. To perform this test, an EEG technician attaches special electrodes to the scalp of a person who is sleep deprived. Through these electrodes, he records electrical impulses in the brain, and the recorded electrical activity appears on a computer screen for a doctor’s analysis. Most EEGs are performed while the patients are awake, but some are performed while the subjects are sleeping. A sleep-deprived EEG, on the other hand, is intended to show how the electrical activity of a person’s brain differs when he is awake and hasn’t enjoyed adequate sleep.

It is essential for a person to be very tired when the time comes for him to have a sleep-deprived EEG. As such, adults are usually advised to stay up for the entire night prior to the test and to avoid napping during the day. In most cases, patients are allowed to eat and drink during the night as they stay awake in anticipation of a sleep-deprived EEG. They are also permitted to eat breakfast before having the test. Doctors usually advise patients to avoid caffeine during the night and until after the test has been performed, however.

Sometimes a doctor must perform a sleep-deprived EEG on a child or infant rather than an adult. This may prove more difficult, as a child is less likely to understand why he isn’t allowed to sleep as usual. Likewise, his behavior may deteriorate in relation to the lack of sleep. Since it's usually much more difficult to ensure that a child will stay awake all night, doctors may recommend allowing a child to sleep for part of the night but ask parents to wake him up several hours earlier than normal. Additionally, a child who is scheduled for a sleep-deprived EEG is usually restricted from napping during the day.

Teens and infants are often handled a little differently when it comes to preparing for a sleep-deprived EEG. Children who are 13 years of age or older may be advised to remain awake for an entire night and avoid napping in preparation for the test. It may be impossible, however, to force an infant to stay awake for an entire night. As such, doctors may simply advise parents to do their best to keep infants from napping prior to the test.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On May 15, 2013

@SarahGen-- There is a chance of someone who experience seizures to have a seizure during the EEG if he or she is sleep deprived. This is why a sleep deprivation EEG is done, to look at how the brain is working during the seizure and which part of the brain is specifically associated with it.

I've had several sleep deprived EEGs done. When my medications don't work well, my doctor has me get one to adjust/change my medication accordingly. I've even had one where I was asleep during the test.

It can be difficult to stay up an entire night, but it's worth it. A sleep deprived EEG can say a lot about what's going on in the brain.

By ddljohn — On May 14, 2013

@SarahGen-- It's a valuable test for epilepsy diagnoses.

My nice has epilepsy and after she started having seizures, her doctor had her go through a regular EEG test. But the regular EEG didn't show anything abnormal. So then, she had a sleep deprived EEG which diagnosed her with epilepsy.

A sleep deprived EEG can make obvious a problem that doesn't show up on a regular EEG. Sleep deprivation has certain affects on the brain that allow for abnormalities to show up.

By SarahGen — On May 13, 2013

I don't understand the point of a sleep deprived EEG test. What does a sleep deprived EEG show that a regular EEG doesn't?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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