Before I Sleep

I’ve had trouble sleeping for years but only recently decided to seek treatment beyond an Ambien prescription. My sleep specialist’s request finally wended its way through the insurance process, and I got to have my sleep study.

The facility was located in  a small college town about 25 minutes away. The facility was kind of hidden, tucked behind a few businesses and the corner of the campus. It looked like a house. I arrived at 8 p.m.; lights out at 10:30 p.m.; awake at 6 to leave at 6:30 a.m.

My room looked like a shabby hotel room. Not shabby in that it was derelict, just shabby in that you’d pay about $50 for it. I was expecting a hospital room, or at least a hospital bed. Nope, normal bed, with a small TV in the wall, a cupboard, and a bathroom. And a camera (opposite the bed) and intercom (above the bed) that are always on. For privacy, one had to retreat to the bathroom.

The bathroom was actually quite nice. Spacious, with a large walk-in shower. The facility provided a toothbrush and paste, as well as soap and shampoo.

I got to bring my own jammies, otherwise I would have had to wear a hospital gown.

The technician explained the procedure: I had a parasomnia study, which tests for everything, and takes twice as long to set up. He also had me try out a CPAP machine (used for sleep apnea, which is a condition where one stops breathing during the night). If your oxygen levels dip below a certain number, they can get the CPAP going. While I appear to have mild sleep apnea, it wasn’t bad enough for them to start the machine.

The CPAP is usually a mask that fits over one’s nose. The machine isn’t pumping in oxygen, it’s just bringing in air from the room and making sure it’s getting in to the body. The whole set up looks a little scary to me, but I have friends who use CPAPs and they love them. They love being able to sleep.

A full face CPAP mask, with mask over nose and mouth and straps around the head and neck.
A full face CPAP mask.
From Wikipedia

The tech left to get his other patient ready while I watched TV. The facility had cable, so I got to watch my Food Network. And I was in luck, a Chopped marathon. I’d been afraid I’d be stuck with Guy Fieri as my companion for the evening.

It took an hour for the tech to get me wired up. Literally. Luckily I got to sit in a chair and watch TV for most of it. The tech was very friendly, so we chatted, too. He also likes Food Network.

First, the electrodes for my legs. I inserted them into my pants and then the tech cemented them in place (mid-shin). Then electrodes were placed on my forearms and collarbone. Next, a microphone was taped to my throat. Belts under my armpits and around my waist to measure breathing. Then a greasepen to mark where the electrodes on my scalp would go, then finally they too were cemented in place. The majority of the electrodes went on my scalp. I don’t know how many. Twenty? All plugged in to a box, to measure the data. Very awkward for using the bathroom.

A woman with wires taped to her forehead and chin, and more wires around her neck.
All ready to go. Perfectly comfy and ready to sleep.
A woman wears a box of wires and belts.
The box went over my chest when I was awake, over my back/next to me in bed. It’s heavy.

The tech began wiring me up at 9, finished at 10. I didn’t have long to enjoy my wires and try not to scratch the tape because lights out at 10:30. I had to shut off everything and I couldn’t even listen to my iPod. Right before lights out, I was fitted with a few more wires: a tube in my nose to measure breathing, another over my mouth, and a heart monitor on my finger. Then the tech came over the intercom and asked me to move in certain ways: raise your foot, your other foot, your arm, other arm, pretend snore.

Because of all the wires, I had to have someone help me if I needed to get up. I did have to, unfortunately, so I just spoke into the darkness: “Hi, I need to get up, please.” The tech responded he’d be there in a minute, and he came and unhooked me and I carefully toddled to the bathroom. When I was done, I sat on the side of the bed as instructed, and he came back and hooked everything back up.

It did take some time to fall asleep, but I actually slept okay, in part because no cat to jump on me. The bed was comfortable and the room was dark and quiet. I understand now why the facility is kind of in the middle of nowhere.

As I tried to fall asleep, I tried to think about sad things, hoping for once that I’d have a nightmare or at least a bad dream. I did, actually, have a dream that jerked me awake, but I just dreamed a moth landed on my and I jerked to get it off. I’ve since had several bad dreams over the last few nights.

In the morning, I took a shower to get all of the paste out of my hair. It only took a few minutes for the tech to get all the wires off. My husband¬†picked me up and we went home. I then went to work as normal. I ended up leaving early, though. I’d slept pretty well, but probably adrenaline and stuff wearing off left me exhausted.

The tech couldn’t tell me anything official; I’ll have to wait until I see the sleep specialist in two weeks. I do appear to have mild sleep apnea. I’ll probably have to do another sleep study.

Of course I wanted a definitive answer. But for now I’m happy to be on some sort of path to (maybe? hopefully?) getting better.

By Natasha

History. Hindi cinema. Hugging cats.

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