Monday, August 15, 2011

Lack of Sleep, Part 2: Me as a guinea pig

Note that this actually took place 3 monthd ago I've just been very lax in my blogging.

In Part 1 of this post I 'splained how my lack of sleep has been turning me into a zombie.  I then, at my doc's suggestion, went to a sleep doctor.  Very interesting ...

I went to their website ( and promptly filled in their on-line form.  That took a good half-hour or so.  Questions ranging from name and address and insurance info to normal bedtimes and medications and family medical history.  Two days later I got a call saying "Let's schedule an overnight stay."

"Huh?" I said.  "I figured there'd be an initial one-hour get-to-know-ya' session to ask me all about my lifestyle and routines and stress levels and a general 'What the hell's wrong with you?' discussion."

"No," said Mr. Doctor's Office Assistant.  "Our first meeting will be overnight so we can monitor how you sleep."  The explanatory document he e-mailed me told me to plan to make it as normal a night as possible; they will provide just about everything and just try to think of this as a hotel stay but without room service.  Bring your regular pajamas.  Bring your regular pillow if you want. Take your regular drugs.  Plan to read your regular bedtime book.  Bring your regular bedtime teddy bear, should you so desire.  Oh, and no sleeping naked.

So I showed up.  'Twas a bit strange, for my whole family.  Laura and the kids and I hopped into the kick-ass Prius at around 7:45 p.m. on a perfectly nice otherwise-average weeknight, and they dropped me off at the local Metro stop (that is Washington D.C.'s subway system, if anyone from outside the area is reading this).  I arrived at my destination Metro stop 45 minutes later.  Got off of the train, hit ground level and promptly walked down the road one block the wrong way.  Consulting my iPhone map app, I turned around and found the right building.  Following the instructions, I found the phone outside, buzzed them, got the secret code to enter the building, and took the elevator up to the 17th, and top, floor.

The first good news I received was at the front desk as they were finalizing my paperwork and insurance info as the nice lady said "So your copay will be ... zero."  How often do you hear that?

After sitting in the waiting room for a few minutes, my new host for the night, Peter, took me to my room.  It was quite nice and spacious.  Queen-sized bed.  Dresser.  Large flat-screen TV.  And I even had my own bathroom (Peter told me later that I had the nicest room; of the 11 total, most of the others were smaller and shared bathrooms with other rooms).

Peter asked when I'd be ready for bed and I replied "I'm ready now.  Well, after a quick clean-up shower."

He came back about 20 minutes later, and things got interesting.  He told me to sit in a chair in the middle of the room.  And then for the next 20 minutes (literally) he began to wire me up.  He used a conductive paste, sort of like very thick Vaseline, to attach a good dozen and a half wires all over my face and head.  More on my shoulders and back and abdomen.  Two more on my legs.  Then he put two straps around my chest and stomach.  Then he said to get up and sit on the edge of the bed.  And I realize that right now, taken out of context, this could very well take a very different turn and head toward gay porn ... but it won't; I promise.  All of my wires were connected to a box which he then plugged into another cable near the bed, and that is how all of my signals made it to the main control center (or whatever they call it).  He then told me to lay down, double checked the connections, and said "One last thing."  He put a small clear tube around my ears with two small protruding cylinders that stuck up my nose, not large at all but just enough to be irritating.  "We are not pushing air into your nose; this is to monitor your breathing through the night."  "Uh huh" I said slightly nasaly, and he left the room.  A minute or so later I heard from the always-on intercom "OK, now close your eyes."  So I did.  "Now open your eyes."  I did.  "Now breath through your nose three times."  I did.  "Now through your mouth three times."  "Now hold your breath for 5 seconds."  "Now cough."  "Now move your left foot twice and then your right foot twice."  Evidently Peter was satisfied that I was hooked up properly, because then he said "OK, now go to sleep."  Quite ironic if you think about that command ...

So I read for a short time and then fired up some of the old time radio podcasts that I had downloaded to my iPhone (I love those old time radio shows).  And, surprisingly, I was sleeping in under 15 minutes.

I awoke at around 6:30 a.m. or so and asked Peter through the intercom (again, always on and no buttons to push, so, yeah, Peter said he got to hear every one of his patients' snoring and other nighttime sounds all night long) if I could get up.  He was in the room in two minutes.  I sat back in the same chair and 10 minutes later he had me completely un-wired.  He said that the goop would come off with warm water and soap.  And that shower felt really good.

It was strange sleeping all wired up like that, and they also had a camera staring at me as well to help gauge sleep positions and such.  I'd never been in that situation before, feeling quite vulnerable.  Like a guinea pig being tested.

I got dressed and out and back into the Metro headed home.  Laura picked me up from the station and I told her all about it during our ride home.  I also told her that for some reason that had been one of the best night's sleep I'd had in a long time.  We got home, relaxed, and I was asleep in front of the TV in less than 15 minutes.  So much for having gotten a 'good night's sleep'.

So I'd been a guinea pig, the doctor had my results, and all that was left was find out how to fix my sleep.  Next post ...

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