OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the use of a totally implantable radiotelemetry system for recording the sleep electrocorticogram (ECoG) of a small new world primate, the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) without restraint during data collection. METHODS: Under anaesthesia a telemetry transmitter, which allowed the recording of a single ECoG channel, was implanted intraperitoneally. This system allowed ECoG data to be recorded overnight from animals living in pairs within their habitual laboratory environment over a period of 12 months. Data were subsequently scored using modified Rechtschaffen and Kales criteria (A manual of standardized terminology, techniques and scoring system for sleep stages of human subjects. Los Angeles, UCLA Brain Information Service/Brain Research Institute, 1968) into stages of waking, light sleep, deep sleep and probable rapid eye movement sleep (pREM). Concurrent video recording was used to assist in the categorising of pREM. RESULTS: Results showed that, as in man, the marmoset exhibits sleep cycles with stages alternating between non-REM (deep sleep and light sleep) and pREM sleep throughout the night. In common with other non-human primates the duration of each of the sleep stages was relatively short and punctuated with frequent waking. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that sleep in marmosets housed under laboratory conditions (a) can be recorded without restraint and (b) has potential to be used as a model for human sleep.