My appointment for the sleep study was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. I wanted to be able to arrive a few hours earlier since I have trouble driving in the dark. I phoned the clinic to ask if I could arrive at 6:00 p.m. and sit in a waiting room until it was my turn to be processed. Nope. After a short question and answer, I understood that I would not be allowed to arrive any earlier than my appointment time of 8:30 p.m. A waiting room does not exist and the staff does not arrive until my appointment time, there are no staff members at the facility during the day, only at night when monitoring patients.
I am tired all of the time, that is one reason I wanted to partake in this sleep study, searching for an answer to my constant exhaustion. On a typical evening at home, I am finished with my chores by 7:00 p.m. and plop onto a recliner in front of the television and typically doze off. I would not be able to do that on this night and I was concerned at how I might stay awake to be able to drive. I needed to change my routine to stay alert.
The dogs received their evening meal at 6:00 p.m. along with their insulin shots. I emptied and re-loaded the dishwasher, double-checked my overnight bag and added ‘toothpaste’ to my grocery list of things to buy on my way to the sleep clinic. By 7:00 p.m. I was on the road. The black skies in the countryside made it necessary for me to use my high beams, frequently switching them off and on in respect of other drivers.
I arrived at the grocery store by 7:30 p.m., grabbed a small tube of toothpaste, a 4-pack of Starbucks Carmel Coffee and walked the aisles for forty-five minutes (to stay awake), just enough time to check-out and drive a quarter of a mile to the sleep clinic.
The sleep clinic’s lights were on and through the nearly closed blinds, I detected human movement but it was not yet 8:30 p.m. so I waited in my vehicle ten minutes to be sure the doors would be unlocked and I would not be standing outside with my pillow and backpack in the frigid cold.
When I entered the clinic, I was greeted by a friendly technician who asked my name, issued some forms to me and led the way to my bedroom. I was impressed with how “homey” the room was but wondered in fact how comfortable the bed would be for my poor aching back.
The technician instructed me to change into my pajamas, fill out the paperwork and go to the bathroom so that I would not have to go during the study. She left the room and I promptly followed her instructions. When I went to the bathroom to ready myself for bed, I noticed that I somehow forgot my toothbrush! Great! I remembered to buy toothpaste but had no toothbrush. Improvising, I “brushed” my teeth with my fingers, returned to my room and waited until nearly 10:00 p.m. for the technician to return.
I was growing very, very tired but could not lie down in the bed since all of the wires were still strewn upon it. I wanted to sleep, right now!
When the tech did return to my room, it must have taken a good thirty minutes for her to attach all the goop and wires to my body. I had positioned my pillow (from home) on top of the other two pillows as a sort of back-support to watch t.v. I do this at home in my own bed, I watch television until my eyes start dropping, then I throw the top two pillows on the floor, click the television off and drift off to sleep. It would not be the same at the sleep clinic.
The bed might have been comfortable to someone without back problems, but I was in misery. As soon as the technician left the room and I turned off the t.v., I realized that I would not be able to sleep because of back pain. I moved the two of the pillows that were under my head to under my knees, elevating them which released quite a bit of pressure off of my back. Whew, one problem solved. But there was still a long night ahead.
My typical body-position-sleeping-habits are like a routine. Every night, I begin lying on my back then I roll to one side and then to the other before I truly fall into a deep sleep. There would be no rolling from side to side tonight. Those wires attached to my head seemed like they were attached to a semi-truck and really restricted my movement. Somehow, I did drift off into a sleep, for how long, I do not know because I was interrupted by TWO technicians who came in to re-connect one of the wires which had come loose – from minimal movement of my head.
I tried again to fall back to sleep. It seemed that just as I had dropped off to sleep, the two technicians entered my room again, only this time; it was to remove the nasal breathing hose, (the kind they give you in the hospital) and attach the head cap and nasal pillows of a CPAP machine. I asked the technician if they had enough data from my non-sleeping to determine that I had sleep apnea. She very carefully explained that, “…the data we received suggests that it may be beneficial for you to use a CPAP machine.”
“So, it’s sleep apnea?” I asked again.
“I cannot offer that diagnosis to you,” she said, “only your doctor can diagnose and prescribe a machine for you. We merely conduct the tests.”
Yeah, right. I can see the writing on the wall and it has nothing to do with the saying on the wall above this bed, “Today’s Moments are Tomorrow’s Memories.”
Some brief time passed, as I lay awake, tossing and turning in my mind since my body was unable to do so. The nasal pillows were fine, but my nasal passages were growing very, irritably dry. The technician spoke to me from the observation camera as she noticed my agitation. I tried to tell her that I was drying out, could she please raise the humidity on the machine. She came and adjusted it to its highest level.
More time passed, my nasal passages and mouth were still uncomfortably dry and all I wanted was water. The technician did not respond to my restlessness, I think she was growing tired of me. I finally spoke up, which is hard to do with air being pumped into your nose, it’s almost like choking!
“Can we take this off please? I know that you can’t raise the humidity anymore but I can’t stand this, my mouth and nose are so dry!”
“I’ll be right in.” The door flung opened, the light switched on brightly and there she stood with a facemask. Ugh! A few minutes later, I was once again attempting to fall asleep, with a different apparatus.
The facemask actually seemed to alleviate the dryness I experienced with the nasal pillows, but, within a short amount of time, a new discomfort surfaced. The lower portion of the mask sat upon my lower lip and if I yawned, it would come loose and cause the machine to start screaming out air at a stronger level.
By four o’clock in the morning, I had had enough. “Hello there! Do you have enough data now that we can take this off of me?”
“Just a few more minutes, I promise, and then we’ll disconnect everything and send you on your way.”
“Can I turn on the television?”
“Yes, go right ahead.”
I tuned into local news and stayed awake, watching time pass by slowly as the digital clock in the corner of the news station’s screen changed minute by minute. It was agony!
Finally, at five o’clock in the morning, she still had not come to my room, I had another half hour to wait.
The tech arrived with a new stack of papers for me to fill out; she handed them to me as she disconnected me from the CPAP machine and all of the diagnostic wiring. As soon as she left the room, I slathered on some deodorant, slipped on my clothes and went to the bathroom to wash my face and grab a cup of coffee on the way back to my room. I filled out the paperwork; brought it to the tech in the office down the hall and she told me that I could go.
Grabbing my backpack, pillow and purse, I headed into the deathly cold morning air and wondered if my Jeep would start. “Vroom, vroom!” Good girl!
Driving home in the dark, I kept talking to myself to stay awake, talking about anything and everything, wondering where all these people work who are already on the road, wondering how many of them are just arriving home from a night of partying or drugging.
Twenty minutes later, I backed into my driveway and garage. I was home and I was going to finally get some sleep!