My doctor wanted me to have a sleep study. I guess I have complained too much about wanting daytime naps, being wide awake at night, forgetting words and forgetting what I was going to say right in the middle of a sentence (I say to my DH, “The important thing is…” and I stop and he is staring at me waiting to hear what the important thing is, and I can’t remember!). So one possible explanation of all these complaints is that I am not sleeping well at night. Admittedly, I go to bed too late and can’t make it up by sleeping in in the morning, and I wake up to use the bathroom at least once a night, sometimes twice depending on my tea/diet Pepsi consumption and whether I take my blood pressure diuretic before bed (not a good idea). Also I should mention that I frequently fall asleep in the family room watching TV and can’t make it up the stairs to bed, or if I am upstairs I fall asleep reading with the light on or (I’m so ashamed) watching TV. So I freely admit that bad habits may be the culprit. However, the point of this is to review the sleep study experience.
I was pretty excited about it. I looked forward to going and having a good night’s sleep without any phone calls or teenage issues or familial snoring nearby. It seemed like a great one-night get-away. I bought new jammies for the slumber party—hey, if I’m going to be videotaped all night I want to look cute. I went to 3 stores to get evening wear suitable for a sleep study!
I packed my bag and slid into the clinic on the night of freezing rain in Portland. The streets were a sheet of ice, so DH dropped me off and the wind blew me the rest of the way in. The guard sent me to a seat “over there, on the left”. Two more people came and he lined them up “over there, on the left”. Someone would come down and usher us in. So we are sitting in a row not interacting and I am reminded of a movie scene in which passengers on a monorail are taken by their heavenly hosts into heaven on a tour bus. I sat, waiting for my date with destiny.
I need to emphasize that I was really looking forward to this get-away. I brought my current read (which I needed to finish for my book club in a day), my magazines which I didn’t get to read over the Christmas break, a notebook in case I had important ideas during the night, and some stationery in case I felt like writing a note. I was longing to jump into my jammies and then bed with all these possibilities.
Not going to happen. First I was ushered into my room with private bath to get ready for bed. Then my tech/ host came back with her arms full of wires and plugs and condensers and a rolling cart of machinery. First she said she needed to scrape all the dead skin off to make a good connection with the probes. I think she took off some skin that hadn’t had a chance to die yet, too. Then she piles a glob of axle-grease on the rubbed off spot, and sticks an adhesive tabbed wire on my head. Repeat this about 24 times. I wondered what people with real hair do; at least, I can take mine off at night, making her job considerably easier.
There are red wires, green wires, blue and yellow wires. Another movie clip came to mind: I think it was Dead Men Walking, anyway, the guy getting wired up was not going to have a good ending. I asked my tour guide to Heaven if they had ever electrocuted anyone….
So I have wires cascading down my neck and back to my waist. Then she brings a couple wires over my shoulders and says to drop them down my pajama legs. Then she scrapes the skin off my shins and attaches more adhesive onto the axle-grease with pads and sensors. I was just glad I had pajamas and not some of the sleep attire I’ve seen.
Then she says she’ll bring me breakfast in the morning. I choose which kind of juice: apple, orange, or cranberry, and which kind of Kashi bar I want: raisin, oatmeal, or raisin and oatmeal. None, thank you. Tea.
By now I am yawning and getting rather anxious to go to bed. First, there is a form I must fill out, and a privacy notice to sign, and an agreement that they can use the videos of me sleeping for educational purposes. That’s enough to give me nightmares. I don’t want anyone watching me sleep, especially young whippersnapper students who haven’t learned that snoring or having to pee several times during the night or tooting or any other indignity can happen to anyone at a certain age, even them. So quit your snickering. You too shall be 60 some day, believe it or not. More papers, duplicates of medical history which the doctor had already taken. Another yawn.
Finally she explains the intercom system, the infrared photography, and says I can get into bed. I’ve been here two hours and I feel like I’m having a permanent wave with these things all over my head. I forgot to mention the red felt pen markings, dots and dashes, that were drawn onto my forehead like a hippie headband. Possibly they were to mark where the face mask/CPAP machine was to go in case I needed oxygen during the night. I am starting to hyperventilate already and I’m not even asleep yet. The last look in the mirror before bed was alarming.
So, after I’m in bed (not on the side she chose and turned down; the other side is where I sleep) she plugs all the ends of those wires into a little black box with a big electrical cord on the other side which gets plugged into a machine which is plugged into the wall. The ice storm outside gives me pause: what if all the power lines freeze over and the electricity goes out, or worse yet, a brown out in which the power to my brain comes and goes in surges? Another movie comes to mind: Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, right after his lobotomy.
She says the probe will monitor my arousal. AROUSAL! What kind of things are they reading in my brain, anyway? A person can’t be held responsible for their dreams, surely? Then I understand she means arising out of sleep, not that kind of arousal. Oh.
So at last I am alone with my book, my night light, and the intercom which occasionally asks me to wiggle my toes, etc, so she can get a reading. Back into the room for an adjustment. Two monitors strapped around my abdomen reading the rise and fall of my chest, wide webbed belts like we use on our car top carrier.
I read until I finally relax enough to feel like I will go to sleep notwithstanding monitors, infrared, and intercom. Ah, peace. I turn off my bedside light and drift into a doze and then sleep.
The door opens. Light from the hallway pours into my eyes and I startle awake. A man in blue enters my room. Adrenaline rush. He passes by the bed and says he saw that I had turned my bedside lamp off and has come to turn off the wall light. Trust me, it wasn’t bothering me a bit. I can sleep through CSI at normal volume in a lighted room and this little wall light wasn’t going to bother me. Not nearly as much as having a stranger come into my room. Personal space, people!
So I go back to sleep. It’s just getting good, really yummy good, when a voice comes over the intercom. “Holly, Would you turn on your back now? We need to see that.” I can’t believe that I have been asleep long enough for them to have all the info they want on that one position! It was just getting good.
On my back I remember dreaming about meeting up with an old high school acquaintance, Garry Miracle, and laughing about it. Garry Miracle, Garry Miracle! I said in my sleep, but he just looked at me quizzically, not recognizing me without my wig and with all these wires on my head. I woke up enough to know I was talking in my sleep, and told the intercom I was going over on my side. She bustled in to loop the wires with black box onto the other side of my pillow.
Two times up to the bathroom before which I had to be unplugged and carry the black box over my head like a many-stranded necklace. Then it was 6:30 and they were coming in to tell me it was time to wake up for my 7 AM departure. Can’t I please stay here in this nice bed and just sleep, I wanted to ask. But my tea and juice, hold the Kashi bar, was brought in on a tray, and I had to sign some more paperwork and an evaluation. Then I needed some time to scrub the red felt pen marks off my brow and soap away the axle grease.
I was escorted down to the front exit and was sent on my way, dying for a good night’s rest.