Thursday, July 14, 2016

What the doctor ordered

As someone with near perfect health, I don't have a lot of experience being a patient. The most traumatic healthcare experience I've had is getting my wisdom teeth removed. Pretty routine procedure.

But after kicking off what has been the worst summer—sleep wise—of my life, I finally did what I should have done years and years ago: went to a sleep doctor. It introduced me to a world of ridiculously high co-pays, repetitive questions about my sleep habits, and trips to the hospital to get blood tests done. All stuff that was new in an almost eerie way, although a part of me enjoyed finding out what the inside life of a patient was like.

Unsurprisingly, the doctor ordered a sleep test as well, which is just another way of saying, "We're going to charge you a buttload of money so you can have the worst night of sleep in your life." Still, I was kind of looking forward to it, partly because I was curious what it would be like, and partly because I was willing to do just about anything to get to the bottom of why I can't sleep like a normal person.

I showed up at the clinic just before dark, feeling like a homeless person as I stood there in my pajamas, clutching two pillows (never underestimate the importance of good pillows), waiting for someone to let me in. The lab tech took me to the same room I had my initial consultation in, where I saw this waiting for me:

The lab tech spent the next 45 minutes wiring me up. That's about 40 wires connected to my body, mostly on my head, with two on each leg, some on my shoulders/collarbone, a couple straps across my waist and chest, a clamp thing on my left pointer finger, and two breathing tube things in my nose (which would have been a disaster if my allergies decided to come play).

I was a sight to see—wires hooked up everywhere, no makeup on, my hair a frizzy mass of unruly curls because they made me wash it beforehand and I wasn't allowed to put any product in it.

Yes, I took a picture, and no, you can't see it. Basically, I looked something like this:

Only instead of the skeleton, just imagine that there are little white squares glued all over my face.

If I wasn't already exhausted from the frustrating 4.5 hours of sleep I got the night before, not to mention months of sleep deprivation, I might have laughed hysterically at the thought that this was the best solution medical professionals have come up with for monitoring someone's sleep. (Oh, and I'm pretty sure there was also a video camera in my room. Creepy.)

Just picture it: a group of sleep experts sitting at a conference room table in their lab coats, laughing evilly as they map out a formula for the perfect worst night of sleep.

  • Strange environment—check.
  • Cheap bed with a thin blanket that barely covers it—check.
  • Wire the patient up so that in addition to having foreign objects taped all over the place they'll also be paranoid that they'll get tangled up in their sleep—check.
  • Sporadic noises throughout the night—check.
  • Turn the thermostat down so patient will never be quite warm enough—check.
  • Prohibit bathroom breaks/don't tell patient where the bathroom is—check.

(To be fair, my lab tech was a very nice guy, and he did ask me if the temperature was okay, I just underestimated how little coverage that stupid blanket would provide.)

All things considered, I don't think it was the worst night of sleep of my life, but it would make the top 5 if I were weird enough to track that kind of thing. The wires weren't as uncomfortable and distracting as I thought they would be, and I actually slept okay once I managed to fall asleep. Which took a good three hours, even after two doses of melatonin and all of my other tricks to stimulate sleep.

After 3–4 hours of sleep, I was awoken and finally got to get rid of all those wires. Which left goops of this jelly glue stuff all over my face and caked into my hair. Luckily, it wasn't hard to wash out, but this is another one of those situations where I envied bald men everywhere.

Now all I have to do is wait and see what the results are. That and finish up what's turning out to be my busiest week of the year. And wait for the sleep-loss headache to escalate.

Am I laughing or crying?


  1. Huh. I'm really curious to see what they say. I didn't realize it was so bad for you. So sorry pal.

  2. I sure hope that they can come up with something to help you. This sleep deprivation has just got to stop! I'm sure that you looked better than that "Home Alone" picture when you went to bed but thanks for the laugh anyway. Love you, Mom.