My Experience at an Overnight Sleep Clinic
After suspecting for years that I have sleep apnea, I finally got around to going to a pulmonologist and discussing it with him. He agreed that my symptoms sounded apnea-ish and recommended that I do an overnight sleep study at my local hospital.
I wasn’t afraid to do the study or anything like that, but I did want to get the best sleep possible since I had three job interviews scheduled for the next day. Error in judgment? Perhaps, but there wasn’t much I could do about it because I’d have to wait at least a month if I wanted to reschedule the sleep study.
Generally, these studies take about 9 hours—an hour to put on and take off the equipment, 7-8 hours to sleep (or perhaps I should say “sleep”), and a little bit of extra time to fill out forms. If you’re not an early riser, you’re out of luck, because at my sleep clinic the wake-up time was between 5:30 at 6 a.m. Luckily, I had to get up early anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.
When I arrived at the clinic, the sleep technician greeted me and explained what she was going to do—put about a zillion wires on almost every part of my body. She explained to me that the wires on my arms and legs would monitor my physical movements, the wires on my chest would monitor my breathing, and the wires on my head would monitor my brain activity and sleep levels.
It took about 45 minutes to put on all the wires, and I pretty much looked like Frankenstein’s monster when she was finished. She called me the “bionic woman.” Whenever I got up from a sitting position, I had to carry this remote control type of thing with me that was attached to all the wires. Nothing was at all uncomfortable, but I looked crazed because I had a bunch of gel smeared into my hair that helped to keep the wires on and dots on my face that marked where the face wires should go.
She told me the rules: during the night, I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom or get out of the bed for any reason without calling her on the intercom so that she could come help me by making sure that all the wires accompanied me to wherever I needed to go. Thankfully, I don’t normally get up and wander around at night, so I didn’t need to worry about that. Toward the morning I woke up and did need to go to the bathroom, but I just held it—not a big deal.
When it was time for bed, she attached a light with a sensor to my fingertip (to monitor my blood flow, maybe?). Then she dimmed the lights and I lay in bed while she went out of the room and had me do a series of movements—breathing in and out, moving my feet up and down, turning my head and eyes from side to side, etc. This was, presumably, to get information about how I normally move and breathe.
Then she turned out the lights and I was on my own. I had purposely woken up really early that morning in hopes that I would sleep like a log at the clinic, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I got to sleep initially without much trouble, but I kept waking up—probably about 10 times during the night. I’d go back to sleep right away each time, but I always wanted to turn around and reposition myself, and it’s really difficult to do that when you are the bionic woman with a tangle of wires attached to all your limbs. Apparently, I tore off two of the wires during the night without realizing it (oops).
In the morning, I got a snack and some juice and filled out some forms to give information about how I thought I had slept (poorly). The technician took off all my wires (hallelujah) and I had a shower and got to go home and then to all my job interviews. I managed not to be a zombie during the interviews, but by early evening I was zonked and feeling really sick, so I guess I had slept even worse than I thought.
I haven’t had my follow-up appointment yet, but even though it wasn’t the most pleasant experience of my life, I’m glad I went if it will help me sleep better in the long run. Sleep apnea is scary, so anything that will help me get rid of it is okay in my book!
[Image courtesy of sleepandtmdcenter.com.]