• Not much sleep going on in this so-called sleep study

    The weekly deadline is an unforgiving Mistress, and she’s unconcerned that I’m thoroughly, wickedly exhausted after enduring a so-called sleep study last night.
    by Debra DeAngelo

    “Tough,” she’ll snap, jabbing her stiletto heel into my tender psyche. “Start typing.”

    Yes, Mistress.

    So. Sleep study. Ironically, there was very little sleep involved. It’s profoundly difficult for me to sleep in my own bed under perfect conditions, so I knew going into this that the chances of me sleeping in a strange environment hooked to a bunch of wires while someone videotapes and watches me all night were pretty much zero.

    Despite all odds, I managed to doze off long enough to establish that I don’t have sleep apnea. My doc wanted to check that out after I told her that my husbie insists that I stop breathing at night. Maybe I misunderstood him. Maybe he said he WISHED I’d stop breathing, because I’m so insanely difficult to sleep with.

    Now to be fair, I’m only difficult when everything isn’t exactly the way I like it. I’m a ridiculously light sleeper and a chronic insomniac, so I need everything to be perfect. All the lights must be out (and no digital clocks – much too bright), and no noise louder than a cat’s paws on carpet.

    The person in bed with me must not sneeze, twitch, roll over, touch me, get up to go to the bathroom or breathe louder than a field mouse. S/he must also never be awake, because I’ll pick up that awake vibe like a radio receiver and zing back to consciousness.

    I need an extra pillow to cuddle, and my little sound machine that plays ocean waves, and my Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati’s “Yoga Nidra” CD handy in the player for emergency backup. (Note: No movement or sound allowed during the CD. It interrupts my intense concentration on relaxing.) Also, the blankets and sheets can’t be wrinkled or rumpled in any way. I have that “Princess and the Pea” thing going on. Wrinkles and rumples annoy my delicate skin.

    A few more requirements: The neighbors can’t run their pool filter at night or leave the porch light on, or my eyelids will snap open. And barking dogs? Is it wrong to fantasize about stabbing them in the neck?

    I don’t think these simple guidelines are too much to ask for. I could sleep with me under these conditions just fine. In fact, I’d spoon me all night. Sadly, the sleep study lab fell somewhat short of my criteria.

    I arrived around dusk, and the soothingly chipper lab tech, Mary, told me what would transpire as she glued electrodes to my head, face, chest and legs, a little microphone to my throat, and wrapped strings of tubes under my nostrils and lips to detect nose vs. mouth breathing. Then she strapped two tight elastic bands around my chest and waist. My inner Princess was writhing.

    She braided my hair into a little top-not, onto which she clipped the wires attached to my head, then roped the dangling wires all together and slung them over my shoulder like a long, freaky sci-fi ponytail, and plugged them into a small electric box. Go to the bathroom? No problem. Just unplug the box itself, and take it and your chapel-length electronic veil right along with you to the bathroom. Piece of cake.

    Uh-huh.

    Before tucking me in, she reminded me to sleep on my back. Not likely, I said. I never sleep on my back. I need to be on my right side with my left knee bent and my left hand tucked under my chin, and my right arm straight out under my head. That is “The” sleeping position. She warned me she’d probably have to prompt me over the speaker to sleep on my back at some point. That’s going to be so very much worse than a porch light.

    Turns out, lying on my back wasn’t so huge an issue because I was wide awake most of the time, what with the room’s box air conditioner roaring on and off, and people talking and banging doors in the hallway. The heck with back-sleeping. If I had any hopes of a rendez-vous with the Sandman, I’d have to curl into The Position. Which was not electrode-friendly. Mary was in and out of the room all night replacing the electrodes that kept popping off.

    OK, OK, I’ll try to sleep on my back. And the minute my brain would relax, that air-conditioner would rumble back on. Around 4 a.m., I couldn’t take it any more. The air conditioner must die. I gathered up my wires and my box, unplugged myself, and went to fumble with the thermostat. In moments, Mary was at my side, concerned because I’d disappeared from the video screen and the computer monitors had flatlined. Which can be a drag.

    Relieved that I had neither hung myself in the closet with the wires nor escaped, Mary listened sympathetically to my whining about the noise as she tucked me back into bed like a sleepwalking toddler. She rearranged all my wires, put extra tape on the electrodes, plugged me back in and encouraged me to try to sleep in any position I could. Wonder of wonders, without that jet engine kicking in every 30 minutes, I dozed off at last. Until 5:30 a.m., when the test ended and Mary woke me up.

    She peeled off my wiry entrapments and told me the doctor would be in touch with my results soon. But I already know what he’ll say: “You have difficulty sleeping.” Right back where I started. I guess that’s karma. Or gestalt. Or something. I’ll figure it out after I get some sleep.



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