I had the pleasure of going in for a “sleep-deprived EEG” on Wednesday. What the hell is that, you’re probably asking. I hope you’re not, because I am sure you realize that I am going to explain that it is, well – an EEG or if you can pronounce this, I will mail you a sticker or something (but probably not) Electroencephalography – and they check out my brainwaves. During this test they may or may not be able to see seizure activity.
The entire appointment lasts about an hour or so from start to finish, but there were some things that I had to do to prepare for it. . .
It is a test after all! I had to study!
First, I could get no more than 4 hours of sleep. When they told me this, I laughed at the appointment booking person over the phone. On a normal day, I get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep. I aced that and only got about 2 hours of sleep, crawling into bed at 4am to barely stir to the alarm at 6:30am. I wasn’t allowed to have any caffeine the night before including chocolate. I don’t usually drink coffee (though enjoy chai) and am not particularly a fan of chocolate, but I have to tell you, I have never craved chocolate more than when being told I couldn’t have it. I succeeded temptation, though. I also was asked to wash my hair the night before. Score! Front of the class!
Morning of, I bundled up as it was bitterly cold and thankfully got a ride to the hospital otherwise there was no way I was going to make it to the hospital. I could barely keep my eyes open and ended up at the Sleep Lab.
The funny thing about getting an EEG is that getting the lead wires attached to your scalp probably take longer than the actual test. The technician rubs the scalp with an abrasive cloth (kind of like sand paper to ensure there’s no oil or gunky build-up on the scalp) and then sticks the wire head to the scalp with a petroleum jelly-like goop. The stuff he used on me had a very light lemony smell which made the experience very pleasant. There are almost 30 wires including some on each collar bones to measure heart rate, jaws and eyes to measure eye movement. That’s a lot of goop and wires. He used cotton balls to assist in sticking them so that he could press them in place and they would stick to where they needed to go and not to his finger. (Which is why the ones running along the top of my scalp look fluffy.)
Then it’s the not-so-fun part.
Because you know, that part was a blast a minute to lay there and get shit smeared through my hair.
The test itself is about half an hour. And they start off with the worst part and work towards the easier. First the technician had me do some control line exercises like opening and closing my eyes. Then he dimmed the lights in the room, set the video camera on me and pulled up the strobe light. I had my eyes closed during this part, but I hate it so much.
The technician will then run the strobe for a few seconds at different frequencies (or Hz) – I apologize but I am not sciencey enough to tell you what is the basal and each increasing increments. The point of this is NOT to cause me to have what is called a “clinical seizure” or a real one. So even though I kept having to be reminded to relax my jaw and I had tears running down the side of my face and it was burning through my eyelids, they were registering how my brain tracked the light.
Then it was over. And I had to hyperventilate for 3 minutes. I have to tell you, I am aces at this. In my head I just pictured a hill climb and mashing my pedals, nice even, fast, sharp breaths. So my nose and cheeks did get tingly and numb and I did start to feel cold, which is completely normal when you’re hyperventilating. But, what was really helpful was that the technician was counting down the time; “Two minutes thirty seconds.” “Two minutes.” Etc. It reminded me of when I used to ride with this guy on a back-to-back tandem which sounds really bizarre, but it was kind of a cool experience; only I could never see what was ahead of me. So when we would be hill climbing, he would call out “A hundred yards to go. . . 50 left.” And It helped me pace out my momentum and power output so I didn’t burn out before I got to the top of the hill. (Tandem captaining & communication skills are essential by the way. It’s true what they say about tandems. However, I’d still ride tandem with the dude – that wasn’t the only issue. We were stellar on the bike in my opinion, but I digress.)
Then there’s just about ten minutes or so of me laying there. Occasionally the technician would ask me to open or close my eyes.
At the end the technician mentioned that I had points of drowsiness, but never fell asleep. No shit. I don’t think I would have been comfortable to nod off when I am flat on my back staring at the ceiling unable to move. He mentioned that my brain tracked the strobes very well.
An interesting thing the technician mentioned was that the director of neurology who would be reading my test, was the 1st neurologist that I had here in Portland! She left the office I go to, to spend more time with her family and since then I am now on my 3rd neurologist. I am thrilled to have her be reading my EEG. Kind of cool to have that going on.
So, I will see what happens next. My new neurologist wanted an updated EEG for his files and to go from there.