The mismatch negativity (MMN) is a response to a deviant auditory stimulus that occurs infrequently in a sequence of otherwise repetitive, homogeneous standard auditory stimuli. The MMN is presumed automatic and independent of conscious awareness. Recording of the MMN during unconscious states may be problematic. The frequency content of the long-lasting MMN may overlap and summate with other event-related slow potentials and low-frequency background electroencephalogram (EEG) activity. The purpose of this study is to determine the optimal filter settings for recording the MMN during unconscious states. Auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from eight subjects in an oddball paradigm during wakefulness and Stages 3 and 4 of sleep [slow-wave sleep (SWS)] using a 0.16–35 Hz analogue bandpass. Deviant probability was 0.033. Stimulus-onset asynchrony was 150 ms. The EEG data were subsequently digitally filtered in the frequency domain. The low-pass filter was set at either 24, 12 or 6 Hz, and the high-pass filter at either 1, 2, 3 or 4 Hz. Applying a low-pass filter down to 12 Hz had a minimal impact on the waking or sleeping MMN amplitude. On the other hand, increasing the high-pass setting from 2 to 3 Hz permitted the visualization of the MMN recorded during sleep. The 4 Hz filter showed a similar trend but also markedly attenuated the amplitude of the waking MMN. A high-pass setting of 3 Hz provides a reasonable compromise. It has only a slight effect on the MMN when the subject is conscious, but still attenuates most of the unwanted slow potential activity when the subject enters SWS.