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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sleep like no one's watching

I just got my health insurance's monthly newsletter. This month's topic -- ironically -- is sleep apnea. Our insurer was encouraging anyone who has sleeping issues or feels excessively tired to talk to their doctor about being tested for sleeping disorders. And, then, they said if you need to be tested they'll just send you a machine so you can be tested at home.

Some things can be done at home: watching a movie, a mani/pedi (and a pedi is stretching it), possibly yoga, but a sleep test really isn't one of those things.

I went last week to have my sleep test. At a sleep clinic which looks like a hotel, but is still really just part of the hospital with all its scary wires and stuff. And while it sucked the big one, I really don't think I could've done it at home for many, many reasons. I had been planning to share the experience anyhow, so the United Healthcare newsletter just gave me a gentle push.

I was very anxious about the whole concept of the sleep study. First of all, you are paying strangers $3,000 to watch you sleep all night. That's odd enough right there. Secondly, as someone who cannot even wear a breathe right strip all night without ripping it off, I didn't really see how I was going to be connected to about 20 million cables and tubes BEFORE they put that stupid breathing machine on me.

Plus, I have to pee a lot at night. Hard wiring me to a wall is not really conducive to excessive bathroom breaks.

Yet, I sucked it up and showed up with my overnight bag. I brought PJs, toiletries and my clothes for work the next day, since the test was from 8:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. I mostly sucked it up and arrived at the clinic because they kept leaving me voice mails everyday for a week before the test telling me they would bill me $100 if I didn't show.

Clearly I am not the only person freaked out by the sleep study. And, rightly so.

I got there at 8:30 and sat there and waited with at least a dozen other people. I was suprised how many studies they did in a night. After maxing out my Health Savings Account VISA card, I headed to my room where a technician would be meeting me in a moment.

She asked me when I normally went to bed, and I fibbed and said 10 p.m. She told me just to make myself comfortable so they could observe my evening routine. I sat down to watch some HGTV and she brought me a Diet Sprite and an apple. I didn't drink much Diet Sprite, because I was scared of having to pee. She told me she'd be back around 10 to hook me up to all the equipment and to be in my PJs by then.

Let's talk about the equipment for a minute. There were electrodes in my scalp, all over my face, on my legs, on my chest. They put them on with this nasty blue glue. And then, because I may have mentioned that I rip breathe right strips off my face while I sleep, they taped it all down, as well. That was fun in the morning.

After all that, they hooked up a strap on my belly and one on my chest to see what was causing me to wake up when I stopped breathing. Then they put a monitor on my finger and plugged me into the wall. There must've been two dozen wires.

I felt like I was actually sleeping well for the first time in ages. I was trying really hard to get a good report. However, I was wrong. Apparently every time I breathe at night I stop breathing for several seconds. So, after two hours of sleepy time, my technician came to wake me up and put what I call "the scuba mask" on my face.

Yes, it was the dreaded CPAP machine. And dreaded it was, indeed.

She came in and hooked up the mask on my face and plugged that into another spot on the wall. For someone who's a little claustrophobic and can't handle having things on her face while she sleeps, this was a nightmare. But, I tried to suck it up and be calm so that it would get over more quickly.

That is, until I had a massive panic attack. Yep. She put this mask that covered my mouth and nose and pumped oxygen into it. Then she left. And I started crying a little bit, which turned into a lot of crying. I'm not sure if you've ever tried to cry with an air-tight oxygen mask strapped to your face and blowing air at you, but it's not an easy thing to do. And, when you're on monitors and video cameras, it's not easy to hide.

She came back and had me try to hold the mask up without strapping me in. That wasn't as bad, but that also wasn't reality. It was 2 a.m., and honestly, I just basically tried to be calm until I was so tired I couldn’t take it anymore and then I let her hook me back up. She could’ve probably also dressed me up in costumes and put it on the Internet and I wouldn’t have cared either.

She kept telling me the machine would help me sleep. I felt like I tossed and turned and never even fell asleep. However, the machine says I slept really well. Who cares what my body says, right?

When morning arrived around 6 a.m., she came and woke me up and unhooked all of the hoses and wires. I went into the bathroom to get ready for work, sat on the toilet and fell asleep just like I’ve been doing for months. That’s actually the reason that I told the doctor about my sleep problems in the first place, so I was feeling pretty hopeless then. Finally I woke up for real, exhausted, took a shower and went to work.

After a few hours of dozing off at my desk, I told my boss I had to go home and sleep. I went home and slept on my couch for a few hours and felt better, but not great. I am really hoping the sleep machine will work when I get it at home, but I really have very little hope for it. And I’m terrified of it. So, this should be fun.

I guess the moral of all this rambling was that I had major issues with the sleep study. Despite the creepiness of having strangers watch you sleep for eight hours, I cannot imagine what I would’ve done without the technicians.

Oh yeah, I can imagine what I would’ve done. I would’ve probably given up before I had to put all the shit on my face. Or I would’ve given up the first time I had to pee. But I never, ever would’ve made it through the night if I hadn’t been at a sleep clinic.

Much like I don’t cut my own hair or change my own oil, some things are just better done my licensed professionals and not in your own home.

1 comment(s):

I use CPAP with what they call a nasal pillow. It's a soft rubber tube about an inch and a half in diameter with 2 prongs in your nose. You can sleep on your stomach and your mouth is not covered at all. It is so much more comfortable than the mask. I have a bad back and cannot sleep on my back and this makes all the difference in the world.

By Blogger jwg, at 9/18/2012 10:31 PM  

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