Laugh, and the worlds laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone.
Forgive me if this post seems a bit disjointed; I’m a little tired today.
I spent the night away from home in a sleep clinic. Mr. Stuck and the boys have been making fun of my tendency to snore for a while now, so I finally had my doctor refer me for a sleep study.
The clinic sent me the information packet, which included a sleep diary and questionnaire for me to complete. It also enclosed a questionnaire for Mr. Stuck. I was surprised to read that not only do I snore, twitch, stop breathing, gasp, and talk in my sleep, I also sit up in bed while I’m asleep. I dream a lot, so the twitching and talking doesn’t surprise me, but I never knew I sat up. Weird!
The packet directed me to bathe but not use lotions, hair products, or makeup; to bring night clothes because I would be videotaped during sleep; to bring my pillow; and to bring sleeping pills if I needed them. I stuffed a backpack with pajamas, a change of clothes, a book of crossword puzzles, some apple slices, a tablet, and my toothbrush. I put a fresh pillowcase on my favorite feather pillow, stuffed a small fleece blanket inside, and bade goodnight to my family.
I arrived at 8 p.m. There was one other patient in the waiting area, a teenage girl with her mother. I grinned and said, “Slumber party!”
The mother gave me a tired look, and then a gentleman in a medical smock called them in. About five minutes later, a smiling young lady named Grace welcomed me and ushered me to my room.
In addition to the bed, monitoring equipment, television, night stands and chair, the room had a camera on the ceiling. I asked her for extra pillows, and she brought me two more and a wedge. Grace gave me some papers to sign and took my I.D. and insurance card. She started the 15-minute orientation video and told me to change into my night clothes whenever I was ready. She showed me the adjoining bathroom and explained that it was shared with the room next door. Then she left. I filled out the papers and watched the video, which explained the study process.
After putting my things where I could reach them, I got my jammies on. Grace returned, and before anything else, she explained about CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) masks and tried a nasal mask on me.
When she turned it on, I could feel the air coming in, but it was very light pressure and didn’t bother me. When she was satisfied with the fit and comfort of the mask, she removed it. She told me that after a minimum of two hours of sleep time, if the monitoring indicated I needed the mask, she would come in and put it on me.
“I’ll be right back,” she said. She returned with a cart and said that since her other patient had not arrived, she would start with me. The cart held a number of wires, some tape, a Sharpie marker, gloves, and gauze. She motioned for me to sit in a chair facing the television, which, now that the video was over, was displaying the opening credits of some sitcom. Grace worked efficiently, measuring my head and marking with the Sharpie the places where she would affix the electrodes.
I told her I wanted to take pictures of the process for my blog, which amused her, and we made small talk about her husband’s new job and their two-year old daughter. She explained each element of my hookup in turn, and answered all of my questions.
Two long leads slid under my clothes from my shoulder to my shin on each side to record my leg movement.
She put elastic belts around my chest and abdomen to note their rise and fall with each breath. Electrodes on my forehead, chin, cheeks and neck measured muscle activity, eye movement, teeth grinding, and heart rate; several wires attached to my scalp monitored brain activity.
An oximeter wrapped around my index finger documented the oxygen level in my blood. A nasal sensor would detect airflow, and a microphone taped to my neck would pick up my snoring.
When she was done, she connected all the wires to a common box, which fed them all to one connection.
It looked very messy and complicated to me, but it was clear that she knew what she was doing.
All that tape made me feel like I was having a face lift. It was a strange sensation. The electrodes on my scalp were stuck there with a thick gooey paste and gauze. Grace assured me that the paste would dissolve in hot water. She told me to go ahead and relax, and to push the button when I was ready to sleep. Then she left. I turned off the television, which I wasn’t watching anyway, propped myself on the wedge and pillows, and read another chapter of my book. I surfed the net and updated my Facebook status, and by 10:30, I was ready for bed.
Grace came in and connected the box with all the leads to the computer monitoring equipment on the nightstand. She plugged the oximeter in, and a red light shone from my fingertip. She explained that if I needed to get up in the night, I could push the call button, and she would come in and disconnect me. She helped me get settled with my pillow and asked me to lie on my back for a few minutes so she could test the hookups. She turned off the light as she left the room, and I noticed that the camera was now pointing at me.
Grace’s voice came over the intercom: “Can you hear me?” Me: “Yes.” Grace: “Good. I have a few exercises I need you to do now. Using just your eyes, look up and down five times.” I did as she asked, going through eye motions, foot motions, deep breaths, and jaw clenching tasks. The last thing she asked me to do was to make five snoring noises. I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly: “Snoring noises? Like pretending to snore?” I could hear the smile in her voice: “Yes, pretending to snore.”
At last, I was ready to turn in. Or so I thought. The wedge pillow, which had been fine while I was on my back, proved uncomfortable for side sleeping. I tried to pull it out from under me without disconnecting any of my wires, but it was difficult, and in the dark, I couldn’t see what I was doing. “Do you need some assistance?” came over the intercom. “Yes, please.” Grace came in and removed the wedge, and I got the pillows situated. It wasn’t as comfortable as my own bed, but it wasn’t too bad.
It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I woke to use the bathroom. I settled back down, and the next thing I knew, Grace had come in to put the mask on me. It wasn’t as comfortable as before; the air flow seemed stronger and I fought it. She said she’d turn the pressure down until I fell asleep, which seemed to work out fine.
When she came to wake me at 5:50 a.m., I was exhausted and had a headache.
I had tossed and turned throughout the night, unable to get comfortable. The wires made turning over and changing position a bit more difficult, and my hair got tangled in them, even though I had pulled it into a pony tail. I sat on the edge of the bed and asked her if I had sleep apnea. She said that as a technician, she was not allowed to speak to the test results; they would have to be given to me through my physician. However, she had brought two print outs of my study, one from before the mask, and one from after.
She pointed out the differences in the readings. Apparently, I needed the mask and it helped. Grace made short work of the electrode removal process.
I washed my face and finger-combed my matted, ratted, gooey hair, and decided to shower at home. I got dressed, packed my things up, and made my way to the still-dark, rainy parking lot.
I stopped for a cup of coffee, which I thought might help my headache.
I stood in the hot shower for easily 15 minutes. There were pieces of gauze stuck to my head as well as the goo. The shower felt great, and I thought I’d be able to sleep once I crawled into my own bed.
Nope. Not a chance. I lay there for half an hour, then an hour. I finally got out of bed and got dressed. I’ve been dragging all day, but I’m sure I’ll sleep very well tonight.