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Sleep Loosely
by Brenda Kern 
08/11/06
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Good Night and Sleep...Loosely

June 2004: an ear, nose, and throat specialist referred me to a sleep clinic. I had been asked to show up at the place at 9 p.m., with an overnight bag and my own pillow, if desired. After filling out paperwork and watching a short video, I checked out my room and changed into my jammies. The room was nearly identical to the typical single motel room: a double bed with pillows, sheets, blankets, and comforter, generic scenery artwork on the walls, two night stands and a lamp, carpeting, and a TV on a tall dresser in the corner. The room had no windows, however, and a camera near the ceiling in the wall opposite the bed. (I don't have enough technical knowledge to know what kind of camera, but when the lights went off it glowed purple, with a ring of little purple lights around it.)

Then the craziness began. It was time to get wired up. I had many, many little electrode-type things connected to me, all over my body (20-some): my legs (to check for RLS, Restless Leg Syndrome), my arms/shoulders, my forehead, my temples, and my neck (a la Frankenstein!), and in key positions on my scalp. Each electrode had to be thoroughly coated with this white goo, the goo having a consistency roughly halfway between Crisco and hand lotion. The electrode had to be pressed firmly into place, until some goo squished out, then taped on with a big x of medical tape. It was especially fun to imagine what my head looked like.

I also had a band tightly around my chest (to measure breathing) and a cap on my index finger (to monitor pulse and temperature). Taped to my face was a tube with little nostril prongs going up my nose (to monitor breathing strength), and a sliver microphone was secured in place in top of that and aimed toward my mouth (to record breathing sounds, snoring).

Each device had a cord coming from it (many pretty colors!), and the other end of each cord had a jack that fit into a box-thing somewhat bigger than a walkie-talkie. The box had a cord coming out of it that plugged into a console on the nightstand on the right side of the bed, with lots of dials and lights on it. (It would have looked perfectly at home in a loopy '50's sci-fi film.) This console fed information to a technician monitoring me and another patient in a control room down the hall. The whole hook up process, beginning to end, took about 40 minutes.

The technician left me with the instructions that, if I needed him, I was to flail my arms and legs wildly, because that would show up on the monitors and he'd come check on me.

I would describe myself as I laid back as very uncomfortable and restricted.

Now SLEEP!

Sure.

[I did have to make one bathroom trip during the night, too. To do that, you "simply" unplug the box from the console and take it with you, proceeding with your business carefully while holding the box up so all the cords will head in one direction.]

Making matters worse was the camera, and I had two lines of thought about that: 1. I hope I don't do anything dorky in my sleep. 2. I had an almost irresistible desire to mug for the camera, or give a dramatic silent monologue, or maybe to try to form little figures in the near dark out of excess goo.

When it occurred to me that I couldn't afford the "special place" they would probably send me if I did any of these things, I fought off my urges. Barely.

Now I don't sleep well under the best of circumstances (which is why I was there, duh), but in this scenario...when I laid on my back in the left half of the bed, there was just enough cord to put the box under the right side pillow, but that was the maximum reach. I felt sure that if I moved too much, I'd pull one of the monitors loose (off my body or out of the box), and I also found myself wondering about the possibility of electrocution (due to sweating or drooling!).

So it wasn't surprising when the technician came in at 5:30 a.m. to say that the study was over and I had slept about 40 minutes total. Since that wasn't enough time for them to get adequate data, I would have to come back and try again.

Goodie!

I went home and immediately showered, finally discovering that baking soda mixed into soap/shampoo helped strip the goo away so I could feel clean again.

The second time I went (in July 2004), it was recommended that I take a prescription sleep aid so I could sleep while there, which, unfortunately, they wouldn't provide. I had to get it prescribed: one Ambien, which cost me $9.99. But it worked, and I did sleep enough the second time.


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Member Comments
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Deborah Porter  11 Aug 2006
Brenda, it's a miracle you slept for even 40 minutes. I know they've got to get the data, but you would kind of think they would try and make it as comfortable as possible, wouldn't you? It sounds like the environment and gizmos would be enough to turn even the best sleeper into an insomniac! Sleep tight lovely lady! Love, Deb




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