Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sleep Study from Hell

I meant to update my blog the day after my sleep study. But it didn’t happen. Then every time I thought about it again, I wasn’t in a place where I could write (usually driving in the car). So I’ll do it now. Two weeks late.

So first of all, my sleep study started on the same evening as the American Idol finale so it was a bit stressful to deal with all the sleep study stuff while I was trying to watch the show on the little hospital-room-TV. I did catch the end, but missed a lot of the great performances by past Idol winners. Luckily I had it TIVO’d so was able to watch it all again later.

Ok, now for the good part.

The overnight sleep study part was pretty much what I expected. I was hooked up to a couple dozen wires on my legs, chest, head and face. Most of the wires were not a big deal except the ones they put on my face. The worse one was the breathing sensor that was taped on my upper lip – it sensed whether I was breathing out of my nose or my mouth. After I was all wired up, I sat up in the recliner (the too-small recliner, I might add) and read a book for a little while.

The technician came in and put me to bed around 11:00 p.m. I lay in bed for well over an hour unable to sleep. It was a bit unsettling to know that someone was watching me on camera and could hear every breath I took or every time I cleared my throat. I also hated that there wasn’t a close in the room. But eventually I went to sleep. Only to wake up again a few times throughout the night. Whenever I needed to get up and go to the
bathroom, the technician had to come in and unhook me to let me walk across the room.

I was awaken at 6:00 a.m. by the technician telling me the sleep study was over for the night. All in all the overnight study was fine. Yes, uncomfortable at times, but not horrible.

However, I was asked to stay for further testing. They wanted to keep me at the facility for a daytime sleep study. I was given the choice to stay that day or I could reschedule for another day but I’d have to repeat the overnight portion again. Because I was already halfway through the process, I figured I’d stick it out and just stay. So I called in sick to work and had some breakfast.

The daytime study involved taking a series of five naps throughout the day every two hours. Each “nap” lasted about 30 minutes. The first couple of naps were fine, but the process started to wear me down real fast. Let me explain.

A side note: Before each nap I had to answer 2 questions. How sleepy do I feel? How alert do I feel? She had a little chart that I had to pick a number from for each question. Generally I was not feeling overly sleep and was moderately alert throughout the day. I mean – I wasn’t doing anything that would make me sleep or overly alert, I was just sitting there doing nothing all day.

At 6:00 a.m. when I was first awaken the technician came into my room all cheerful and full of joy. She pulled up the shade on the window, turned the TV on and talked about what a wonderful day it was going to be outside. She asked what I wanted for breakfast (scrambled eggs and sausage) and brought me a tray within a few minutes. Over-the-top-cheerful doesn’t cut it with me first thing in the morning. But I endured.

At 8:00 a.m. the technician came back into my room to prepare me for my first nap. She was soft spoken and talked slowly – as if to a child getting ready for bedtime stories. She pulled down the shade, turned off the TV and fluffed my pillows. I was hooked up to the machines again and put to bed for a nap. I starred at the ceiling for a while but finally dozed off. Almost immediately I was startled awake by the technician over the speaker in the ceiling (located next to the camera) announcing that my nap was over.

She came into my room a moment later with her Little Miss Cheerful personality all aglow. Shades up, TV on, snacks offered, wonderful day proclaimed.

Then I was left along for the next 90 minutes in the room to watch TV or read my book or whatever I wanted. But I was not permitted to leave the room (I assume I wasn’t anyway, even though I didn’t actually ask to leave).

At 10:00 a.m. guess who showed up? Yep, you guessed it. Little Miss Sleepy Time personality. Shades down, TV off, pillows fluffed and tucked into bed. This time no sleep. Just a really long 30 minutes of laying in bed knowing that she was watching me.

I won’t go through the rest of the day’s naps. I think you understand the routine by now. I didn’t sleep during any of the naps throughout the day. The only break in the routine was a pretty good lunch of baked chicken, fruit salad and veggies. Otherwise I was stuck in this little hospital room with an uncomfortable recliner and a little TV to keep me company.

By the last nap at 4:00 p.m. I was fed up. She asked her typical question of “how sleepy do you feel?” and I just wait “whatever, just like all the rest of the times.” I think she got the clue that I didn’t want to be there anymore.

As I lay in the bed this time around I quietly let the tears flow. I was emotionally exhausted, frustrated and just wanted to go home. I had been in that little room for 20 hours and I was ready for it to be done.

As soon as she announced the end of my last nap, I started removing the wires and sensors even before she could make her way into the room. She finished removing the ones I couldn’t reach when she arrived. The ones in the hair were the worst because they were literally put on with paste that felt like Crisco and I was stuck with these globs in my hair. (For all the naps the wires from the night before were still connected with the exception of the leg ones. So yes, the picture you see here is what I dealt with for 20 hours.)

Once home I was exhausted. Not physically tired, but emotionally drained. Like I said at the beginning of this epic long story… the overnight study was fine. It was the daytime study that broke me down and beat me down. I don’t envy anyone who has to go through such an ordeal.

The next day (Friday) I did a bit of looking around on the Internet to see what I could learn about why they might have wanted to keep me for a daytime study. If I’d known what it was all about beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have stayed. I also found out that they generally only do the daytime study if they can’t determine any specific problems during the overnight study – like sleep apnea.

Basically a daytime study is to determine why a patient has excessive sleepiness during the day to the point of having narcolepsy. I had complained that I was tired all day long and lacked energy or motivation. I think they got that confused with being “sleepy” all day. I’m not sleepy to the point of falling asleep at times when I shouldn’t (while working or driving) – but I am tired throughout the day as if I am worn out and just want to relax on the sofa and not do anything physical. More like fatigued rather than sleepy.

The results of the study won’t be available for 2 to 3 weeks - which makes that sometime next week.

I know that I don’t sleep well at night and get up anywhere from 3 times to 6 times a night. But I also know that I sleep deeply when I do sleep. I dream, so I must be going through the first 4 stages of sleep to get to the REM cycle.

I’m sure that the fatigue has a lot to do with my lifestyle and maybe things are just catching up to me lately. I am away from home for 12 hours a day for work – 3 hours of that on the road for my commute to and from the office. I also run a business out of my home in my spare time and try to put in about 20 hours a week focused on those activities (marketing, product development, website maintenance, client projects, etc.). But lately I’m just so exhausted when I get home from my day job that I don’t have the energy to deal with the business so it has been slipping lately. Plus I try to fit in regular exercise 3 to 5 days a week – even if it’s just 30 minutes of walking. And that doesn’t even account for the rest of life involving my family, friends and social life (which is not that extensive in the first place). Geesh! No wonder I’m tired all the time. I need to slow down.

So I’ll wait to find out the results of the sleep study.

Wow! This post has gotten so long! If you’ve made it this far, I’m amazed. LOL! Next time I’ll try to make a long story shorter.


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