Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Studying Sleep

I was the center of attention last night which is a role I am never very comfortable with.  I didn't have to give a speech or have the garden all weeded and ready for a tour, or get all gussied up. 

All I had to was sleep. 

And, hopefully, snore.  I was hoping I would snore like I do at home,  with the addition of holding my breath thrown in, just a little.  It always makes Carl uneasy when I stop breathing at night.  Funny, it never bothered me, because I did not believe my snoring was all that bad.

That is, until I borrowed a small tape recorder from Joel and taped myself sleeping (or I should say, trying to sleep.)  I was amazed.  It sounded like I was fighting for my life half the night.  The  noises emanating from my throat and nasal passages were anything but ladylike;  I sounded like an amplified foghorn on steroids.   And poor Carl!  How could he sleep through this steadily increasing racket night after night for the last 32 years?  No wonder he's exhausted half the time.

So, in my latest quest to find out what could be causing some of my weird health symptoms, I went in to the hospital last night for a 'sleep study'.   Ironically, the fact I may have problems sleeping was brought to my attention by a rheumatologist I was sent to see by mistake, as I do not have rheumatoid arthritis, apparently.  Well, that's good news, truly it is, (turns out I have plain ol' garden variety arthritis, for those of you keeping score) but the rheumatologist wanted to know what my problem is, and I assured him I wish I knew.  But as I was going through my symptoms of this, that, and the next thing, when I got to my restless legs problem, he stopped me dead in my tracks, "How do you sleep at night?  Do you snore?"  

I said, "No, not really," only to see Carl's head nodding up and down in an emphatic YES she does! motion.  Oh, Carl, really.........must you embarrass me?  Ok, well, maybe I DO snore a little, I admitted. 

"Does she hold her breath sometimes?" the doctor asked. 

I glanced sidelong at my traitorous spouse, and was treated to another series of whiplash inducing head-nodding.

"You probably have Sleep Apnea," the doctor declared.  "You should go in for a sleep study." 

So, I was referred to a sleep specialist next.  The sleep doctor was a very thorough man, who after listening to Carl's horror stories of what it takes to get through a night of sleeping with a snoring banshee, scheduled me for a sleep study in about three weeks.  The three weeks was up last night. 

For a week prior to going in, I had to keep a Sleep Diary, noting whether I napped during the day (nope, never do) to what time I went to bed, how many times I woke up in the middle of the night, how long I was awake, and what time did I finally get up for the day, and how did I feel upon awakening, refreshed or crummy?  Turns out, sleep apnea can worsen high blood pressure, bring on morning headaches, raise cholesterol, cause aches and pains of fibromyalgia,  raise insulin resistance,  and is not a good thing for your heart, causing it to work much harder than needs be.  And of course, lack of sleep limits a person's ability to be productive, slows reflexes and is just as bad or worse than driving drunk.  Many accidents are caused by exhausted people dozing off behind the wheel. 

So, at 7:30PM Monday  night, I reported for Sleep Duty.  Sounds so easy, doesn't it?  Just show up, crawl into a comfy bed and sleep.  Oh, but if there's one thing that is consistent about me, it is my ability to make easy things hard.  At the Sleep Lab I was told to get into my jammies and wait for the technician to come back in and get me ready for the test. 

The nice lady came into the room with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos on a cart along with a portable air compressor.  (The compressor threw me a bit,  I was wondering what we were going to need to inflate?)  First she took a tape measure and started measuring my head from ear to ear and from nose to base of the neck, making little marks with a china marking pencil at strategic intervals.    Then she had to rough up the skin on my scalp a little and apply some glue (smelled like the stuff used for model airplane kits) to my head in dabs on the marks.  After the glue was on my skin for a little while, she then stuck patches with electrodes and long wires in them into the glue and turned on the air compressor to speed the drying process.  I'm not sure how many wires I had on my head, but I know there was more than ten on my skull, and three on my chin, two by my eyes, some on my forehead, two on my legs, a stretchy belt under my arms and around my waist and an oxygen sensor on my left-hand ring finger.  Then I was given a box to wear around my neck until bedtime with all the wires dangling out of it, which made me a Portable Patient.  I could sit up and watch TV or read or do what I wanted until bedtime. 

I watched cable TV for an hour (but was amazed there were so many commercials?  We don't have cable here at home and now I'm not jealous any more) and then I left my door open a crack which is the signal I am ready to Sleep!  It was 10:30PM.

My friendly tech came in, plugged me into all the bells and whistles, and put an oxygen sensor hose-like thing in my nostrils, taped it to my face to hold it in place and then left the room.  She then spoke to me through the intercom system and told me to open my eyes, close my eyes, roll my eyes, blink five times, breathe through my nose quickly, then slowly, the same with my mouth, stick out my tongue,  flex my feet, and finally, make a fake snoring sound three times. 

"Ok, Karen, any questions?  If not, you are all set.  I will monitor your breathing, heart rate, and oxygen levels from the next room.  The infrared camera will record your movements.  We will be able to see you all night long, so if you have any problems, need more blankets, have to use the restroom or any other issues, just let me know.  You can go to sleep now."

Ok...Let's Do This!  Let the sleeping commence!  I was ready and willing..........but unfortunately, not able. 

I kept thinking, ok, sleep.  That's all you have to do.  Sleep.  Come on.  You can do this.  Sleep.  Ok, roll over, maybe on my left side it will be better.  Uh, five minutes later, nope, no better....roll over to the right side.....um...ok, just hold still, keep breathing, and relax.....Sleep.  SLEEP....SLEEP!  Ooops, now I've unplugged something.......drat......here comes the nice technician to plug me back in.  I asked for another blanket, as my feet were like two blocks of ice for some reason.....ahhhh......that's better.  Ok, let's get serious here, we can do this.  Think pleasant thoughts.  All I have to do is fall asleep, come on, I can do this. 

But I couldn't.

Performance anxiety over sleeping?  Good grief.  My restless legs were in top form, as restless as ever and aching to boot.  I just could not get my legs to stop hurting.  And of course, trying to roll over without dislodging all the wires and hoses was a challenge, too. 

Finally, the nice technician lady came in with a sleeping pill for me to take.  After some time, I guess I must have dozed off, but I don't remember when.  At some point I woke up again with my legs aching worse than ever and heard my technician say over the intercom, "Ok, Karen, we are going to terminate the Sleep Study now." 

What?  Oh, no!  I had failed...I didn't sleep at all!  Now what?  Nobody will believe me now.  I felt so sad.

The tech told me to repeat the blinking, eye rolling, breathing and fake snoring exercises for the end of the tape and that was the end of my Sleep Study.  She then came into the room and proceeded to unharness me from all the wires.  It was 6:30AM; I didn't know it was that late; I really couldn't believe I'd slept at all.

I told her I'd failed, and she said, no, I hadn't failed, I had indeed slept and I certainly DID snore.  And she said I stopped breathing 65 times in the seven hours, but I never achieved truly deep sleep which is when she suspects I would probably have more events of sleep apnea.  I know she is not the doctor and all the results have to be reviewed yet, but in her opinion, I do, indeed, have Sleep Apnea, in a rather mild form.  . 

Depending on what the doctor finds after looking through all the paperwork, I might have to do this all again, only this time with a CPAP machine.  Or maybe he'll find my problem is too minor for treatment.  You would think I'd be sad to hear a positive diagnosis, wouldn't you?  But I'm not.  I'm not sure where this will all lead, but in the end, I hope it leads to a great night's sleep, even if I have to wear a snorkel-like device for the rest of my days.

And Poor Carl might finally get a good night's sleep too! 

Waiting for the phone to ring......YAWN....sure, NOW I can sleep!


Alison said...

This is going to sound strange but -- I'm actually relieved to find that someone has finally found something that is definitely wrong with you. It's progress! I have always wondered how on earth people who go in for sleep studies are supposed to sleep with all that stuff stuck all over them! I know I would have trouble relaxing. I often have a hard time sleeping the first night in a strange place.

I hope there is some treatment that will help.

FlowerLady said...

I was wondering if they would give you something to sleep. I would definitely have a hard time going to sleep knowing I was hooked up and monitored.

Love and hugs to you dear Karen.


Darla said...

I had a sleep study done one time. It was a sleep deprivation (sp) study. I had to stay awake for 24 hours first...they flashed all kinds of red lights in my face...It is not as easy as it may sound to just go to sleep....I'm glad you are on to a diagnosis...one that's easily handled....

Anonymous said...

It seems as if a sleeping pile would through off the study. I cound never sleep for a study. All those gadgets... You post was humorous as always. Sorry, not laughing at your sleep apnea, just at your traitorous husband. :grin:

xoxoxo said...

Im so glad there is something wrong with you! Lmao! It explains everything about the quarry garden-hehe.
Actually I have heard the big bonus to the snorkle mask is you can sleep with your head under the blanket without suffocating! Definetly a plus for those of us with ICY feet!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Oh Boy, Karen, you have been through a lot! I don't think I would ever have been able to sleep in that strange place.

I hope they have found the solution.


Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Karen,
I haven't been by lately, as I am behind in my blog reading, as always.

I can relate to you wanting a diagnosis.

I had a sleep study done in 1995, because I was tired all the time. They found bruxism, which didn't cause problems until this summer. I have a night guard that seems to be helping. That's good, because it cost a lot of money. They also found something they called a name I can't remember. They said I kick my legs in the night. Over the years, that has gotten worse, and it wakes me up most mornings, and sometimes in the night. When I first started hearing about restless leg syndrome, I looked it up, and found something else, called periodic limb movement disorder, PLMD that I decided I have.

When I got a copy of the sleep study, and looked up what they said I had, I found it's what PLMD used to be called, so I was glad that I had actually been diagnosed with it. I wasn't "imagining" it or making something up.

It sounds like you have restless leg syndrome, since your legs hurt, but one can have that and PLMD at the same time. When I'm first going to sleep, I jerk some. It's not always just my legs, either. Does that ever happen to you?

I hope you get some relief for the snoring and your other health problems improve.

Sall's Country Life said...

It sounds like this might be the answer to a lot of your problems. I sure hope you can get some good sleep!! My parents both snored terribly, (I'm dreading the day I start too).Isn't it miraculous all the new technology we have today. Modern medicine and research is a good thing, hope you benefit soon!!

Karen said...

Hi Alison, and yes, I know what you mean, I'm glad they may have found something definitely wrong with me, too! I never sleep well when I'm away from home either, so I should have known this wasn't going to be easy. I worked outside all day long in the cold hoping the fresh air would make me extra-tired, but I guess not. Keeping my fingers crossed the doctor finds my case 'bad' enough to treat.

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Hi Karen. I would have needed a sleeping pill too if I knew I was being watched. LOL! My daughter has sleep apnea and wears a mouth guard at night to adjust the air flow through her mouth and nose.She knew she would never get any rest at night with a oxygen mask on. It sounds like you have Restless Leg Syndrome also.You must be worn out girl! LOL! I am glad you are getting some help for it. It can cause all kinds of problems.

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Well, for Pete's sake! If you can accomplish all you've accomplished having sleep apnea, I can't even fathom what would have gotten done if you didn't have it!!!
Even though it's not a funny subject, your post did make me laugh in the way you described the testing. I hope you (and Carl) get some relief.

Sandy said...

Hi Karen.. I too went through a sleep study and it was funny to have all those wires on me and cameras watching.. took me a while to get to sleep... so glad you found your problem!
Was so nice of you to come visit today and the sweet comment you left.. put a big smile on my face..
Have a great Holiday Season!

lifeshighway said...

Karen, my husband has sleep apnea and went through the series of studies. After the initial embarrassment of wearing the c-pap, he is more rested, feels great and I sleep better. Good luck to you.

Stone Art said...

Best of luck with it all, regards from Ireland

Karen said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. I am amazed at how common this problem is and how many people have been affected by a poor night's sleep. I appreciate all the support!

Dan said...

I like the new "banner" for your site. I'll have to assume that is a Christmas "billy goat" with the horns on the rocks. :)

Zoey said...

OMG, Karen, I had to call my husband into the room and read what Carl says about your sleeping. My DH has been telling me the same thing for the past few years!

The poor man is always complaing that he is awake all night listening to me.
I never feel tired in the morning, but I go to bed super early every night.

I will be very interested to see what you find out with the C-pap thingy.

Zoey said...

I like the first pic, the one you says is "OK". Maybe put a Christmas border around it????

I must confess, though, that I am not a big fan of mosiacs...so the less pics, the better for me.

Karen said...

Zoey, this whole experience has been a bit surreal; it seems like a CPAP would be an easy fix, though I haven't gotten the thing yet. I have been chronically tired for years and I wonder what it would feel like to have a good night's sleep? I hope I find out!