My friends who’ve gone through a sleep study guaranteed I’d have a poor night’s sleep.
So what’s new?
For the past couple of years my sleep has been fragmented. I get up constantly to go to bathroom. I toss and turn. I snore. I rarely sleep through the night and often wake up tired.
After a recent consultation at a sleep disorders clinic, I decided to spend a night in the facility’s specially equipped bedroom – a stay that included allowing myself to be wired up with sensors from head to toe.
I attended a sleep disorders seminar beforehand at another hospital. The seminar reinforced what I intuitively knew. Not getting a good night’s sleep night over a prolong period of time is unhealthy – causing cardiac problems, high blood pressure, sometimes depression. It also increases your chances for such things as diabetes and stroke.
The three most common forms of sleep disorders are insomnia, restless leg syndrome — and sleep apnea, which I suspect I may be suffering from.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain — and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen. Imagine the wear and tear on your body that causes.
Being a loud and consistent snorer, which I am, can be a symptom of this condition.
I was amazed when I started talking about all this at work and found out that three of my co-workers suffer from sleep apnea. They’re all on CPAP machines and swear by the effectiveness of their use.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nose. This air flow helps keep the airways open so that breathing is regular. This is considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
Was I going to end up depending on one of these machines for a good night’s sleep? The thought made me nervous.
At the sleep lab, I donned a t-shirt and gym shorts. The female staffer fastened more than a dozen wires to the sides of my face, the top of my skull, my chest and my legs, using adhesive sticker and this sticky goop.
She also inserted a small device that clipped just inside my nose and included a small microphone that rested just above my mouth to record my snoring.
Finally, she fastened a sort of chip clip sensor to the end of one finger that somehow recorded the oxygen level in my system.
Everything was videotaped and there was a microphone right by my bed that allowed me to communicate with her through the night.
She hooking me up and then asked if I was ready to go to sleep. Not quite, I said. It was only 8:30 p.m.
So I turned on the TV and watched the end of the U.S.A. vs. Guatemala soccer game. When that ended, I clicked on the first presidential debate and saw both Obama and Romney trying to explain what’s been going on with the economy.
That did it.
“I’m ready,” I spoke into the microphone. The young lady came in and turned the lights off.
Surprisingly, apart from the gadget in my nose, it wasn’t that bad. When I turned from side to side, I occasionally felt the pull on the wires. At one point, I pulled one off and she came into my room, woke me up and put it back on.
I only got up once to go to bathroom. All the wires attached to me fed into one master control box, which was plugged into some other device. She pulled the plug from the master control box and I had to carry the box (with all the wires dangling) in and out of the bathroom.
I had a little trouble going back to sleep and tossed and turned a little after that. At 5 a.m. I heard her voice again.
“Ok, you’re done,” she said.
She came into the room, pulled off all the wires and connections. I went into the bathroom and wiped and washed all the sticky goop off the sides of my face, my skull and my hair.
“Did I snore?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” she replied.
She wouldn’t say if I have sleep apnea, saying that would be determined after the doctors evaluated all the data. She said I’d be called for a follow-up appointment — soon.
My feeling is whatever happens from here happens. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
The older we get, we also need less sleep. Remember when we could sleep and needed to sleep at least 10 hours at night. I used to wonder why my dad got up so early, but always took an afternoon nap. Now I am following in dad’s footsteps by getting up early in the morning, but I don’t always need a nap. Notice I said “need” a nap…there are times I may not need a nap, but naps are always welcomed! Hope the results are positive for you.
I’ve been taking Ambien a few times a week to deal with waking up after four hours and not being able to sleep again. I’m 45, and I’ve recently had a bit of a breakthrough. I’ve found that if I get six hours sleep each night, I can sleep through for those six hours — and then I’m good for the day. By not trying to oversleep, that sets me up for getting a decent night’s sleep the next night.
Also my stupid cats are not meowing until they hear my bed creak … they had been mewing in the wee hours, which didn’t help. Dave, have you ruled out mewing cats?
I had heard that you need less sleep when you get older, but I never realized it would hit me so suddenly. Anyway, now that I’ve embraced my sleep change, I’m taking fewer pills … and I have two more hours to do other stuff in the day.
Initial sleep lab diagnosis: I do exhibit sleep apnea when I sleep on my back; I have a higher than normal amount of muscle twitches in my legs, causing me to change sleep positions often…and I have reoccurring sinus infections, which is a separate issue. I’m not going to bore you with the blow by blow. I’ll write more about this later when I get full resolution…