In my last blog post, you would have heard me talk about my history with excessive daytime sleepiness, and wanting to find out why I could take three naps a day even though I was sleeping well at night. I spoke to my doctor, and she referred me to have a sleep study done.
About a week later, I got a call from a sleep clinic with an opening that weekend, which was only two nights away.
The woman on the phone asked a few questions about my sleep, and told me to bring comfortable clothes to sleep in, ear plugs if I wore them, which I do, and told me not to bring a pillow. I’ve read that clinics worry about people bringing bed bugs from home so they aren’t allowed to bring their own pillows anymore.
IT'S SLEEP STUDY TIME
That Sunday night, I arrived at the clinic at 9:00 PM, and sat in the reception area to fill out a few forms. A woman came in with her teenage daughter and they walked over to get their forms, turned around to face me, and stood there wondering where to sit. My immediate reaction in awkward situations with strangers is to make a joke, so I waved my hand and said, “Sleepy girls sit over here!” They laughed and came to sit near me. It became clear quickly that the daughter was the patient and the mom was there for moral support.
The woman at the desk turned on a small TV in the corner of the room and played a video about sleep for us, then left. The video was pretty outdated so the three of us made jokes about the video being boring on purpose so we would fall asleep before our sleep study.
Our names were called and we were ushered into the back hallway.
My sleep technician had a hard to pronounce name so she told me I could call her Shelly. She walked me to my room, told me to get changed into my cozy clothes, use the washroom, and wait in my room for her.
SETTLING IN TO MY ROOM
I brought my cozy pants, a t-shirt, and my favorite slippers with me. I changed into them, emptied my bladder, and returned to my room. The room was small, with beige walls and hardwood floors. On one side was a single bed with a painted blue headboard, and beside it a matching night table. On the other side of the room was a metal chair and a fan. The bed had a small box sitting on it, about the size of a label maker. The box was covered with a bunch of buttons with straps and wires all splayed across the full length of the bed, waiting patiently for a human to attach themselves to.
On the night table were two more weird boxes with buttons, and a big walkie-talkie looking thing on the top of the headboard.
I took a few pictures with my phone, sent them to Jake, and then sat on the edge of the bed for Shelly to arrive. The mattress felt too firm for my liking, but before I could text home about it, Shelly appeared. She pulled the metal chair beside the bed and told me to sit down.
She explained what she would be doing, and started cleaning areas of my head and face with little square wipes that smelled like rubbing alcohol. She then dabbed globs of cold glue in all the places she had wiped, and attached wires to my cheeks, temples, forehead, scalp, and areas behind my ears. My finger was clamped with something uncomfortable, and my legs had a few wires attached as well.
In total, I had 22 wires attached to my body.
The wires were going to measure my nighttime sleep patterns. My brain waves, the oxygen level in my blood, my heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements. I had straps around my upper chest and waist, and a tube went just far enough into my nostrils that I thought I was going to start sneezing.
“Shelly, I’m a sneezer.” I said, worrying I would shoot all the wires across the room with one mightly blow. “When I get started I sneeze 16-17 times!”
“That’s okay.” She said in broken English.
“If you sneeze, take the tube out, and when you’re done I put the tube back in.”
If she wasn’t worried, I shouldn’t worry.
The nose tube was to monitor breath from my nose, and it had a little plastic loop that was about an inch from my mouth, to monitor mouth breathing.
Shelly had me lie down in bed, and was about to instruct me in the next step, but I interrupted her, “Can you take a picture of me, please? I want to post this on Instagram.” Shelly used my phone to take a picture of me pretending to sleep, then said, “Look miserable!” We laughed, and she took another.
Shelly turned on the fan, which she suggested I use because the rooms tend to get warm, and then turned off the lights and left. It was time to test the Frankenstein wires. I heard her voice over the speaker next to the bed.
TESTING MY 22 WIRES
She had me go through a number of eye and mouth movements, then breathing with my nose, mouth, then snoring. The snoring test went on for what felt like forever, and at one point I started laughing at my own noises.
Test was done, all good. Shelly said goodnight, and my sleep study began.
The room was dark except for a circle of little red lights at the other end of the ceiling. Shelly was watching me. I made a mental note to resist the urge to do anything embarrassing, like picking my nose or scratching my privates, and then I remembered I was covered in wires and tubes, so picking and scratching would be difficult. My hair was ticking my neck, but when I tried to move my hair back, my hand bumped a wire, and I was afraid I had ruined Shelly’s handiwork.
TIME FOR BED
I lay on my back on the hard mattress, with my hands over my belly and the duvet up to my chin. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I heard a door open and checked to see if it was mine. I heard a toilet flush, someone else sneezed once (show-off), and then I started to worry that my purse could get stolen by a sleepwalking patient in the middle of the night. Then my head was itchy, so I moved my wired hand slowly to my head and stuck my finger in a sticky glob of glue.
Try to sleep, Beth. I lay there with my eyes closed for a while. I took my own advice and rested. I was as still as possible, and not all that comfortable, but eventually fell asleep.
I woke up several times because of noises in the hallway and stared back at Shelly on the other side of the red circle of lights. I tried to scratch my face but more sticky glue. I closed my eyes and fell back asleep.
When the early hours of the morning came I woke up a lot, each time with a different song in my head. Apparently, my dreams are music videos. I was singing Micheal Jackson at one point, then Pink, then Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. Each time I fell asleep, I was back in a dream, then waking-up briefly, then back to another dream and another song.
GOOD MORNING, SUNSHINE!
Morning came too early. A small light went on in the room to prepare me for Shelly’s announcement that it was time to get up. I sat up in bed, my shoulder aching for no apparent reason. Shelly came in to remove my wires at about 6:30 AM. I laughed at how I must have looked, exhausted with my puffy squinty eyes and glue in my hair. I went to the washroom to remove the glue from my face and scalp. I got dressed and went to the front reception area to answer questions about my night.
My new friends, the mother and daughter were there too. We greeted each other with a sarcastic “Good morning, how did you sleep?” conversation.
”Horribly, and you?”
“Oh you know… just couldn’t move on account of the 22 electrodes.”
The morning forms wanted to know how I thought I had slept. I said not great, but it was because I was covered in wires and not able to move, which rarely happens at home in my own bed. They asked how tired I was upon waking, and I told them I was ready for a nap. I submitted the forms, was told I would get a call in 3-4 weeks, and I was on my way.
All-in-all, my experience at the sleep clinic was pleasant enough. I gave them a good review on Google. Sure, the rooms weren’t of five-star hotel caliber, but it wasn’t the worst night of my life either.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to spend a night in a sleep clinic, and now I know! What should we do next?
Read about my sleep clinic results HERE.