As I may have mentioned a time or two, chronic insomnia has plagued me for many years. Also well-known is the fact that I’m a dedicated night person whose creativity is at its peak when most “normal” people are fast asleep. This is not something I want to change per se, because I love the night. What needs to be fixed is the quality and duration of uninterrupted slumber. To paraphrase an old cliché, I’m tired of being tired, all the time! Rarely do I ever sleep more than two to three hours at a stretch without waking up. Going to bed early is a waste of time too, as that leaves me wide-eyed in the middle of the night. My doctor, convinced I have sleep apnea (I’m hoping not), has been nagging me for years to participate in a sleep study. “Do you snore?”, he keeps asking. Apparently I do, sometimes, according to my husband. (Let’s not talk about his snoring and how he has no trouble sleeping!) Allergies and chronic sinus problems, accompanied by post-nasal drip are some of my other annoying conditions and likely sources. After a particularly exhausting week, I finally relented, having no idea what to expect. “You’ll enjoy it”, said the nurse. “Just put on your jammies and think of it as a slumber party.” Yeah, right. Jammies? Never owned any, nightgowns being my preference. Next came the call from the sleep clinic. “Your appointment will be March 10. Check in at 8:30 p.m. and bring pyjamas. Also, go to our website and download your sleep diary. You’ll have to fill it in for a week before the appointment.”
What’s this now? Seriously, there’s homework?
That’s right; you have to document caffeine and alcohol intake,
meal times, exercise (what type not specified), bed times, wake times,
sleep times including naps, overnight bathroom visits and get up times.
Prior to Your Test
• Clean Hair – Please wash your hair (shower/shave) before your sleep study. Do not use body lotion, hairspray, mousse or any other products on the day of your study because it may interfere with the proper application/adherence of the sensors.
• Nails – If you are wearing nail colour or artificial nails please be aware that it will need to be removed on one or more fingers to ensure proper monitoring of oxygen levels. • Caffeine – Please do not consume any caffeinated beverages after 3 pm the day of your study. • Alcohol – Do not consume any alcohol within 48 hours of your sleep study. • Naps – Do not nap on the day of your sleep study. • Medication – Take all prescribed medications unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Do not take any “over the counter” medications on the day of your sleep study. • Meals – Eat a normal meal prior to your sleep study (there are no restrictions on eating). Meals are not provided at the clinic so you may wish to bring a snack and non-caffeinated beverage with you.
Please Bring the Following Items to Your Appointment
• All medications. • Pyjamas – Please bring 2-piece pyjamas or shorts and T-shirt to wear to bed, slippers and robe. • Any personal hygiene items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste. • A book, magazine, listening device such as Discman, ipod, etc. (something to do during non-sleep times). • Any non-caffeinated / non-alcoholic drinks or snacks you wish. • A change of clothes for the next day if needed (You will need to go home to shower following the test). • If using Nasal CPAP, bring your mask/head gear, tubing and CPAP machine with you. [Read more about CPAP, below.]
• Bring your completed Sleep Diary. This will become part of your chart.
What a shitload of instructions, yes? Not exactly conducive to relaxation!
Lacking the proper wardrobe, I improvised with a two piece track suit and spandex camisole. In hindsight, this was a mistake which made things more uncomfortable than they needed to be. More about that, later. My overnight bag included a bottle of water, notepad, pen, Samsung tablet loaded with ebooks and camera, nighttime asthma meds, dental hygiene stuff. hairbrush and kleenex. The thought of trying to sleep while hooked up to a tangle of wires was weighing on my mind, along with the creepiness of being watched the entire time.
Questions kept running through my mind, adding to the trepidation:
What if I can’t sleep?
What if I have to pee?
How much privacy is there?
Deep breath! Time to go…..
There was a small sitting area with a TV and three men waiting. Men? GASP! No makeup allowed, so I was trying to hide behind my hair. Silly and vain, I know, but it’s a natural reflex. Luckily, Zara, the Polysomnographic technologist had an amiable personality, which put everyone at ease. First task was filling out the inevitable paper work. Next came the “luxury suite”. Ha! Keep in mind, this was at the local hospital, which is efficient but more “no frills” than some of the private clinics. One thing I forgot was my neck pillow (for arthritis), but managed to improvise with a rolled up towel.
So, now comes the “fun” part – getting wired up! This is where my choice of wardrobe made things difficult. I needed to leave the jacket on for warmth, but the material was a bit thick, resulting in some minor discomfort with the chest band (looped under the arms). The electrodes on the scalp are messy, especially for those of us with long hair. Ick! I was debating whether to include this next photo, since I’m so vain and all, but, it is what it is. EEEK!
Particularly bothersome were the nose prongs (which were later fastened with tape), as I have trouble breathing anyway, thanks to the aforementioned sinus issues and asthma. This is getting more “thrilling” by the minute! By now it was 10:30 p.m. and Zara asked me to get into bed and lie on my back. She then disappeared and her disembodied voice echoed through the speaker above my head. “Move your left foot up and down, now the right, raise your left arm, now your right, move your eyes up and down, now left to right. Turn on your left side, now on your right.” Movements checked, it was lights out and I lay there for what seemed like hours, but was probably only 30 minutes. Suddenly, my right hand cramped up, no doubt from clenching! Sleep finally came, but a violent arm jerk woke me up with a start. Might have been a dream; I can’t recall. Dozed off again, then the inevitable happened. At 2:20 a.m., I needed to pee and called out to Zara. She unhooked me and I made my way to the bathroom, wires intact. Back to bed and much tossing and turning. That chest band and the nose prongs weren’t helping at all!
Next thing I remember is waking up at 5:15 a.m and Zara telling me my husband was there. He normally goes to work around 5 a.m. and decided to drop in, just in case I was done. “You can stay in bed longer if you like. Your husband said he’ll wait until you’re ready”. I was yearning to go home, so asked Zara if she had gathered enough information for the study. She said “yes” and came to liberate me. She also mentioned that my deepest sleep came after 3 a.m. and that I should be on the night shift. No surprise there! Zara referred me to the doctor when I asked about her findings. It could be a few weeks before he receives the completed report. I knew that, but took a shot, anyway. Here we go – more paperwork; a survey about the experience: Zara was great, bed was comfortable, I was not, arthritis was aggravating, no, I don’t want to do this again, etc. A quick face wash, hair brush and done!
Home, sweet home by 5:30 a.m. Tired, but also wired, I took a shower instead of going to sleep. There was electrode gel in my hair and residue elsewhere. That woke me up more, so I tended to the dogs’ breakfast, let them out and went online to see what’s new. By 8 a.m. my eyelids were drooping and I crashed. The day was pretty much a write-off after that, with another nap in the afternoon and back to bed by 11 p.m. Good thing I work from home and the clients are understanding! For the first time in years, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. Oh, to experience that again! Regularly seems like too much to hope for, but we’ll see what the prognosis is.
Sleep apnea is one diagnosis I’m dreading, because there are only two possible options; surgery (!) or using a CPAP machine. Isn’t that sexy? I’ve never seen one close up, but know a few people who use them. CPAP is an acronym for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”. People with apnea literally stop breathing for a few seconds during sleep, but are unaware of it. The purpose of the machine is to keep airways open using mild air pressure, thus eliminating the problem. It’s been said that those suffering from anxiety or claustrophobia (me, me!), might have trouble adjusting to this procedure. The reviews were mixed from the people I questioned. One uses it regularly and swears by it, another only occasionally, during periods of extreme fatigue. A third couldn’t handle it at all and still suffers from sleep deprivation.
That said, if you’re having difficulty sleeping, why not consider doing a sleep study?
It may offer you a solution or at least, some answers.