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!