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You’re Joking, Right? {Sleep-Deprived EEG}

EEG, EEG child, sleep-deprived EEGHands down the most difficult thing I have ever done as a mom is to watch Apollo suffer through painful medical tests and procedures. I am sure that comes as no surprise to you. What may surprise you is that some tests are designed specifically, it seems, to torture the parents.

Take a sleep-deprived EEG for example. Apollo is scheduled to have one Monday. My directions include: not allowing him have more than six hours of sleep the night before, then keeping him awake for a 20 minute drive to the office where his EEG takes place. He is then supposed to stay awake for the first part of the procedure, fall asleep for the second part so they can see what his brain does while he’s sleeping. If he manages to fall asleep, they will then wake him up when they’re finished and send us home.

How do I know this test is designed to test my stamina as a parent? Because I’ve been through it before. Enoch had an EEG at the age of four. He was exhibiting some very odd behaviors and a neurologist ordered an EEG to rule out seizures. He suspected they were actually rather complicated tics (which, as it turns out, they were). All of this happened pre-blog, so those stories aren’t recorded here.

Here, for the sake of history, it is:

The year was 2004. Four year old Enoch (who is a bit of a naughty-tyrant type anyway) was to be sleep-deprived for the EEG. We were not “allowed” to put him to bed before twelve or one AM. Chuck (much more of a night person than I) volunteered to keep Enoch awake. He dragged his old iMac (the one he bought for $100 at a garage sale)  upstairs and set up his Civilization game. After watching for a few minutes, Enoch asked if he could go sit on the couch. Chuck agreed. A few minutes later he decided to check and make sure Enoch was still awake. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen. Enoch had sneaked off to his room and gone back to bed! This went on for a few hours until Enoch was finally allowed to sleep…Then we had to wake him up at o’dark thirty and keep him awake as we drove to the doctor’s office. The nurse took us to a room with a hospital bed, turned on a movie and proceeded to glue dozens of electrodes to his head. The procedure began and at some point she had enough information and let us know it was time for him to go to sleep.  That’s right, we the parents were expected to simply wave our magic wand at precisely the right moment and have Enoch fall sleep. Miraculously he did and as soon the technician had enough information about his sleep, Enoch was unceremoniously awakened while the tech ripped the dozens of electrodes out of his hair. We were then sent home, alone (no nanny, au pair or valium – for us or him).

So yeah, you might say I’m dreading Apollo’s EEG Tuesday afternoon…


  1. Kara

    Owen’s sleep deprived EEG was in Bellevue! We had to keep him awake on a 2 1/2 hour drive. The other one we were already inpatient at the hospital thankfully.

  2. Alicia A. Carlson

    We just did one two weeks ago. Both my husband and I stayed up with my son LATE. My child (10) then went to school all day, and had the EEG right after school. He never fell asleep during the test. But I DID, sitting in the dark, leaning against the wall.

  3. Shelley

    Been there! These are no fun. I remember letting our 4-year-old ride his Big Wheel around the neighborhood at midnight just so he’d stay awake. When he was finally allowed to go to sleep, HE WOULD NOT. They finally gave up and sent us home. Five minutes in the car and he was out cold. We turned the car around and headed back to the hospital and BEGGED them to do the EEG on our now very sound asleep toddler as we did not want to have to go thru another night like that.

  4. Sam

    It’s not much fun from the other side either. I had a few EEGs when I was young and I remember my mom struggling to keep me awake, then getting the gook put into my long hair (down to my waist! it was a nightmare getting that stuff OUT of my hair), and then struggling to fall asleep (I usually didn’t sleep, I’d lay there trying to sleep and after a few hours they’d give up).

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, I JUST got the glue out of his hair from the sleep study…I’m about ready to shave it all off 🙁

  5. Kate Estes

    No fun, but I’m sure you and Apollo will do fine! We had to stay in a hotel for our last one b/c Noah was required to be up almost all night and we lived over an hour and a half away. It wouldn’t have been possible to keep him awake in the car. Doing a sleep-deprived EEG on a child who slept far more than a typical child was a challenge, but we chose to focus on making some fun memories together. We took him out to Toys R Us and let him pick out a little set of dinos and some bath toys then let him play in the hotel bathtub for a LONG time with his new toys. This was a big treat because it was so rare for him to take tub baths due to his central line. We built Legos, did some little crafts, read books, etc. A friend gave us a little bag with some tiny prize types of toys and we’d pull out a new one when he got groggy. Sure, I was tired, but I cherish the memories of that night now. He can no longer get in the tub or do many of the things we did that night and I can honestly say that I’m glad that I had a positive, “let’s have some special fun” attitude. He still remembers that night with fondness as do my husband and I.

  6. Kate Estes

    Forgot to say – NO tech should be “ripping” the leads out of Apollo’s hair like they did with Enoch!!! We’ve managed to unhook Noah after EEG’s and sleep studies without even waking him up. If they are rough with him, politely ask for someone else or offer to do it yourself. That part should not be a big deal in any way and I’m sorry they were so rough/unkind to Enoch. 🙁

  7. Melpub

    Several things are different, I’ve noticed, in cardiology as practiced in Europe–the stress test is done on a bike, not a treadmill, for instance. When my daughter had a suspected murmur, she wore an ekg pack–a “walking” ekg for 24 hours, and we were to monitor when she slept, when she ran, when she sat, and so on.

    Nobody should be ripping out the leads! But as I read all this I wonder if the sleep deprivation is necessary.

    I had amnios in Europe and an amnio in the States. Each procedure was very different. The American doc insisted that I have an absolutely, uncomfortably full bladder. The German docs did not.

  8. Helen

    Ugh!! I remember the sleep deprived EEG’s my high functioning autistic, extremely hyperactive son has had 2!! I’m positive they’re designed to see how much a parent really can handle!!!!
    Good luck with Apollo’s xxxx

  9. Katie

    After experiencing every single emotion that is documented here in the last 18-hours, I have to say that this blog brought me laughter, comfort, and tears. I left our sons first Sleep deprived EEG so confused… Happy that I saw him having the twitching episodes in his sleep because we might possibly get some answers… But sad that We both had to go through 18 hours of torture to find out. Knowing that this experience makes everyone feels this crazy made me feel a little more normal… And not so terrible for having such angry thoughts throughout the entire process! Loved this!

  10. Sarah

    It is so encouraging to read you made it through his four year old EEG. Our four year old goes in this Monday for his sleep deprived EEG. I am so so worried on how we are going to make it through this :(. All his previous EEG ‘s were during his hospital stay where he was in a coma. Our Colton is very done with doctors and well he is a red head! 🙂 I am probably having more anxiety about this test then him! Thank you for sharing your story!

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