I had my first ever physical earlier this year. I had all of the routine blood work and tests. Just as I suspected, I was relatively healthy: normal blood count, glucose, thyroid, kidney and liver function. I don’t want to brag but my cholesterol numbers were HDL 94, LDL 75 and Triglycerides 140.
Oops. I just bragged.
As an aside, when did I get old enough to brag about cholesterol numbers?
I practically got a high-five from my physician. One thing she did schedule for me though was a sleep study. Didn’t sound like loads of fun. But I am mature if anything. So I agreed to the challenge.
One thing you must know about me is that I ace tests. All my life. In school I got A’s. Little did I know though, that one of the hardest tests that I would ever take in my life would require me only to sleep.
The sleep study day finally rolled around. I was told to report to the clinic at 8:00 P.M. I did just that. A small bag of supplies and a bamboo pillow wrapped in a 750 thread count pillowcase from home was all that accompanied me. I was wearing loose shorts and a comfy t-shirt, just as instructed.
My “sleep technician” set me up in a room. It was a room at the hospital that had been converted to look like a low-budget hotel. I had a full size bed, a nightstand, sitting chair and a TV. This was to be my home away from home.
The tech instructed me to sit back and relax. He had another patient ahead of me and he would be back in to see me around 9:15. So far I was sailing through the process. No worries for me.
Then at promptly 9:15, in comes Patrick. He was there to hook me up for my study. And this is exactly where my new friendship with Patrick took a swerve.
He had all of his supplies lying on the bed, waiting for me. He was very methodical. This was not his first rodeo. He told me to stand with my back to him. Then he handed me two wires, one over each shoulder. He told me to place these long wires down the front of my shorts, all the way to my ankles. After completing this task, Patrick attached the sensor at the end of these wires to the sides of my legs.
Next he began placing sensors on my chest, my head and ultimately my face. Imagine large, round sensors stuck to your face. It was suddenly impossible to have normal facial movement. A sneeze now could prove agonizing.
Patrick placed a strap around my chest and one around my stomach. Lastly he wrapped a device around my face that had prongs going into each nostril. This contraption would measure my breathing. It was hellish.
Once I was all hooked up and completely miserable, it was time head for the bed. Patrick then hooked my many wires to a panel on the wall. So there I was on the bed. Trapped like a rat. If rats had sleep studies.
I was instructed lights out at 10:30. Patrick would be in another room fiercely monitoring my slumber. He would gather information about my breathing, oxygen levels, sleep stages and eye movements. All as I rested.
And then Patrick was gone.
Cut to 10:30. I am a rule follower. So I turned out the lights. I sometimes have problems sleeping in strange places, such as hotels. But I was not about to panic. The tech told me that he actually only needed very little sleep from me to be able to gather the data that was required.
I lied there with my eyes closed. The room was dark and quiet. Too quiet. Because all I could hear was my brain. My brain always seems to be the biggest obstacle between me and restful rest. But I wasn’t about to get anxious.
Until I got anxious. I was extremely uncomfortable. My legs had somehow become entangled in the wires that were supposed to be monitoring my leg movements. The thing in my nose was driving me mad. I also had a clip on my finger monitoring my pulse. Patrick told me that if I needed him, just to remove that clip and he would be notified. So now I was worried that I was going to accidentally knock the the clip loose, causing Patrick to come running. For nothing.
And what if I had to pee? I didn’t want to have to be unhooked to go to the bathroom. I am tougher than that. I was going to sleep. And just how in the world was it already 1:00 A.M.?
Yes, it was 1:00 A.M. And I was officially panicked. I had to sleep. I pondered whether there had ever been anyone who couldn’t sleep at a sleep study. Would I be the first person in history to fail a test on sleeping?
I used various methods to sooth myself. And something worked eventually. I could feel my heart slowing. I was beginning to get cold, meaning my body temperature was dropping. I was actually feeling drowsy. I was drifting away.
Then BAM!!!! You know that thing where you jar straight awake and you aren’t even sure where you are for a few seconds? Well I did that. Not once. But twice that night. I was so anxious that I couldn’t rest. I finally got a stretch of solid sleep in from 2:00 until around 3:30, Patrick later told me.
And the reason that I was talking to Patrick at 3:31 A.M. was because while sleeping, I had yelled out and dove from the bed. Yes I said yelled and dove. Patrick came running, feeling sure that I was having a night terror. Maybe I was. I was starting to feel a little insane by then. What was my body doing to me?
I managed to toss and turn a little more after that episode. The test was scheduled to end at 5 A.M. Patrick came in at 4:30 and said that he was pulling the plug. He had everything that he needed and I clearly needed to go home and get some real rest.
I am pretty sure that I got better rest on nights when I had new-born babies at home than I did at the sleep study. It was a horrible experience for me. Something about being watched over a camera and just knowing that someone was monitoring my brain waves. It was just a weird experience.
Thankfully I got my results back and everything was normal. Just how they concluded that I slept “normally” that night though made me question Patrick’s version of reality but I went with it because I am never going back to that place.
If they want to watch me sleep, they can sedate me first.