It has taken me a few days to get over my clinic sleepover experience enough to want to write about it. It was frustrating, fascinating and fucking exhausting.
After belly dance practice on Wednesday, the wife dropped me off at the locked doors of the same clinic where I met my sleep doctor on Monday. There was a lot of hugging. I felt like I was leaving the country, with a small backpack, and a wrinkled yellow pillow. It was 7:45 PM… I was 45 minutes early to my appointment. I watched the wife drive away and rang the doorbell. A sleep technician named Jill brought me inside and escorted me down to the end of a hallway adjacent to the lobby.
By the time she returned, I was sitting down and completing a pre-study questionnaire I found on the bed. It was 9PM and it was time to get wired up! I sat in a large chair before the technician while she measured my head, divided my hair into sections, and marked on my skin with a red grease pen. “This pen can stain,” she said, “and I will give you instructions on how to wash the glue out of your hair later.” Fucking awesome.
Sensors were placed on my legs, abdomen, chest, neck, face, and scalp. Some of these sensors were placed after cleaning my skin with alcohol to remove excess oils and then glued down or taped down. Wires everywhere! We made jokes about the Borg and approximately one hour later I was done. She plugged the sensors into a box that could wirelessly (haha) transmit data to her workstation down the hall and hung it around my neck. It was “portable.” Portable my ass! At her workstation, I would be waveforms and numbers on her computer screen. Next, we tested out CPAP masks, just in case I needed one in the night.
After fitting a device, the technician would leave the room and turn up the air flow.
My instructions were to lay on my back, breathe through my nose, and take ten or so minutes to ruminate on my breath and comfort. When I tried to open my mouth to breathe… air would rush out of my mouth (reminding me of Supernatural and how demons were exorcised from flesh suits). Out of the two devices, the nasal pillows were the most comfortable (and quieter). I didn’t know CPAP could be so quiet! After a few minutes, I decided that it was something I could get used to… Better sleep and a reduction of dangerous risk factors that can shorten my life significantly? This fattie says it is totally fucking worth the hassle and possible initial panic of learning to breathe and sleep with CPAP.
The final touches were a pulse oximeter probe attached to the index finger of my dominant hand, which made using the restroom challenging, and a sensor attached to a nasal cannula that was shoved up my nose to detect changes in temperature. Then a few quick reminders… I was not allowed any electronic devices once the study started. No cell phones, no alarms, no computers. If I got lonely… there was a flat screen T.V. and cable infomercials.
When the lights went out, it was difficult to get comfortable. The room smelled unfamiliar, it was too quiet, and I kept getting cold. Let us not forget I have been sharing a full-size bed for 13 years with my wife and before that I was snuggled up to the butts of my best friends. I do not have a lot of practice sleeping alone and it was difficult to fall sleep and stay asleep. By the end of the night, I was desperate for sleep and worried that I was not going to get any information from this study. In order to qualify as a co-morbidity for my insurance, my sleep apnea would need to be classified as moderate sleep apnea. In addition, my bariatric surgeon is requiring that any sleep apnea is treated with CPAP for a minimum of two weeks prior to surgery. With this information heavy on my mind and heart, I slept less than three hours in total and got up to pee four times. Each time I needed to get out of bed I would need to call out (the intercom was always on) and Jill would come in to help holster the devices to my body before I waddled to the toilet. It was a circus trying to keep cords out of the toilet, navigate toilet paper with my non-dominant hand, and then pull my shorts up and down over wires.
On the bright side, morning came. It was bittersweet, I was glad to be done but worried about results. I was given coffee to drink while Jill removed electrodes. She talked about her passion as a river guide and how to save yourself if you fall out of a raft into a river. It was a quick process that left me covered in quarter size chunks of semi-solidified glue, red grease pen, but at least I felt prepared in case I was knocked out of a raft into a grade three river.
I felt exhausted, underwhelmed, and disappointed that I could not force myself to sleep more. I looked like a 1990s Jewel Troll… like the one that had been left at the bottom of a toy box. Jill patted me on the back, confirming my suspicion, and instructed me how to get the gunk out of my hair. I dressed, packed, and hurried out to the wife. She was sleeping cutely in the driver seat, her chair leaned back while she waited. When we finally got home it was 6:30 AM, the wife had work, and I had school at 8:00AM. What was on the agenda for this student, the one who had not slept, and was beginning to itch from the adhesives? A clinical simulation lab day, I needed to change into full uniform, and I would be expected to help a pregnant mannequin deliver a lubricated mannequin baby. I jumped in the shower and began the tedious job of removing tape residue from my chest/face/legs, red smudges, and grease from my hair.