When I was younger, I could sleep hard. I slept all the time and it was hard to wake me up. I slept through the worst thunderstorms. Also, fun family events. Sometimes outdoors.
Exhibit B: (This one is from the Derby Festival’s Great Balloon Race one year and I obviously was real into it).
Exhibit C: In the good old days when it was safe to sleep outside on your deck all night because the air conditioner in the house was broken. Ahh, the 90s.
Then, as I got older, depression made itself more known, and sleep was damn near impossible. Yet it was all I wanted to do. Sleep and I have had a weird relationship, is what I’m saying.
A few months ago, when the doctor and I (mostly the doctor but a little bit I) decided to check all the boxes that made sure nothing else was causing or aiding the depression, a sleep study was brought up.
I’m a known snorer, mouth-breather, drooler (when I’m REAL sleep) and there was that period of a couple years during and after college when I took various items of clothing off in my sleep. So, a study where someone watched me sleep/potentially do all that? Oh yeah. Sign me up. That won’t be weird at all.
I made the appointment and regretted it immediately.
They mentioned I could have sleep apnea if I had depression and one could be causing the other and also that’s dangerous so if I have it, better to know now so they can treat it and FINE.
I went in for a consultation a month before the actual overnight and Dr. I Forget His Name said “Well, you do have a very small airway.” So that seemed promising. Not.
(Pour a cup of coffee and settle in, friends, this’ll be a long one.)
Fast-forward to last night. The actual study. I was to go overnight at the hospital and be hooked up to machines and someone would watch me sleep and tell me all the crazy shit that happens while I’m out.
I immediately think about the time I sleepwalked at my parents’ house and was standing in front of the dresser in their bedroom with no pants on and SURELY THEY’LL LOCK ME IN THIS ROOM FOR EVERYONE’S SAFETY.
Spoiler alert – they didn’t.
I am told to get to the hospital at 8:30 p.m., which makes me anxious that I’ll be expected to fall asleep at 9 p.m. and that’s not going to happen because if anything, that’s when my pre-sleep ends and I start watching my shows.
I decide to wear what I’m going to sleep in (in the hospital. At home there’s no telling from one night to the next what I’ll wear or not wear to bed…. that sounds sexier than it really is..), which means leggings and a T-shirt, but a V-neck shirt so I don’t feel like I’m choking. This is important to remember later on in our story.
I walk in to the sleep study office and see two other patients getting set up in their rooms and realize I am the youngest here by AT LEAST 45 years. Yay.
Immediately I overhear two very important questions being asked.
1. “Do y’all have cable?”
2. “Are you going to check on me after I take my Ambien?”
It’s important to note here that this is when I’m heading into my “room” and am noticing there’s not a lock on any of the doors.
The TV is on in my room when I get in there and as luck wouldn’t have it, stuck on the channel showing The Bachelor, aka what I’m pretty sure they show on a loop in Hell. The girl who brings me in there tells me the administrator of the study will bring the remote when she comes in.
Aside: I do not get embarrassed easily, but I get secondhand embarrassment for people a lot, and for that reason, The Bachelor/Bachelorette is my nightmare.
Here’s my setup:
Mmmm, comfy. And those wires? Yeah, they all go ON YOU.
Another kind of aside: I guess when you’re finally actually asleep, they can get a decent idea of what they’re looking for in these sleep studies, but they’re stacking the odds against you up until that point. You’re in a weird room, with weird noises, an uncomfortable bed, worried that the old lady across the hall on Ambien’s gonna wander in about 3 a.m. and they’re just gonna let it happen because it’s a study and you can’t get involved because that skews the results.
Oh and here’s the video camera they use to watch you the entire time. (This was when I was still in Bachelor Hell).
I wait for the girl administering the study to come in and do whatever she’s gotta do, all the while having an inner conflict about whether or not I should take my bra off to sleep. On the one hand, it’s much more comfortable to sleep without the girls in Boob Jail and I know I’m not going to be getting much in the way of comfort during this thing. On the other hand, someone’s watching me sleep and has to wake me up in the morning and well, sometimes those things have a mind of their own.
I decide to keep it on. Better safe than sorry.
Before she hooks me up on all the machines, Lauren (my sleep study administrator) explains to me what they’ll be looking for while I sleep, which is mainly if I stop breathing or not. And if so, for how long. And also how many times that happens in an hour. Aka Sleep Apnea, which I do not want to have for a multitude of reasons I’ll get into in a minute.
She says if I’ve stopped breathing enough times by 2 a.m. for them to be concerned (15 or more), she’ll come in then and put the mask on me. So right now, we need to test to see which one I would like to use, should I win this contest I do not even want to be participating in.
The first option is a no-go for me, as it seems like the equivalent of sticking the end of a vacuum against your face, if the vacuum had tiny nostril-sized pieces and you weren’t allowed to open your mouth.
The second option is a little better, because it covers your nose like the happy gas distributor at the dentist, but I still don’t want to have to wear it if I can help it.
Especially because with it all strapped to my head and the tube hanging off of it that hooks to the machine, I look and feel like this:
I let Lauren know I’m hoping never to have to put one of those on again for the following reasons:
– I oddly feel like I can’t breathe when the air is being forced in and out of my nose and I can’t open my mouth.
– I don’t like sleeping with things on my face.
– I’m thinking of the possibility of a future sleepover with a gentleman caller and having to pull that bad boy out when it’s time to go to sleep. Read my blogs about my dating life. I need all the help I can get in this area, apparently, and this contraption will not do me any favors in that department.
I choose the second option, should I need it, and then the process begins.
Step 1: A strap around my abdomen and a strap that goes right where they have those backpack straps that nobody uses unless they’re hiking. Guess the bra isn’t coming off, even if I change my mind.
Step 2: Vigorous pumice-stoning of my scalp, neck and back. You know what’s really good for dry winter skin on someone that has eczema? Vigorous pumice-stoning, or as my new friend Lauren calls it “exfoliating.” I’m honestly surprised I didn’t a) bleed or b) start a fire.
Step 3: Vaseline/glue-like mix on all the electrodes or whatever that are then placed all over my head and neck and two spots on my back. Oh and two spots on my legs that have also been rubbed raw with the pumice stone just to see what those do in the night.
Step 4: Microphone on the neck to listen to you snore. Taped directly onto your vocal chord. Basically. Oh and then all the wires are tightened up around your neck so really my decision to wear a V-neck because I didn’t want to feel like I was choking all night is laughable now. While Lauren attaches all this crap to me, we talk about Scientology, because I managed to get the channel changed to A&E (which is showing the Leah Remini show), thanks to the remote being located. ((PLOT TWIST, THE REMOTE WAS IN THE NIGHTSTAND THE WHOLE TIME.))
Step 5: They attach a pulse-reader thing to your index finger that is also hooked to wires that are plugged into God knows what, and if you have to go to the bathroom at this point, well, tough shit, because you are now 85 percent robot.
When you’re ready to go to sleep or 11 p.m. (whichever comes first), the administrator comes back in and basically attaches you to the wall. The wires are all plugged into this thing mounted next to the bed and there’s this little speaker right by your head she’s gonna use to communicate until morning. Sweet dreams!
Yeah. OK. Um, there you are, laying in this strange bed in a strange room covered in literally all the wires in the world, knowing that someone’s watching you. You’re worried you won’t fall asleep at all, or it’ll take forever, or you’ll drool and short out a wire, or you’ll fart and she’ll see/hear it, or you’ll stop breathing a million times so she’ll have to come put the face mask on you and…
VERY RELAXING. MUCH SCIENCE. THIS SHOULD GO SWIMMINGLY.
I could feel all the things. And rolling over was hilarious. I felt like the love child of Darth Vader and Sleeping Beauty.
No amount of Snapchat filters could help.
One bonus to this process, however, was when I got cold, I could ask that she adjust the temperature and also bring me another blanket and/or pillow. So I did take advantage of that. You don’t get that at home. At least not at my house.
After what seemed like 10 hours, I guess I finally fell asleep. And I guess I slept OK for a while, but it felt like 3 minutes, and then she was asking me to try and sleep on my back.
Though it isn’t evident in any of the photos you’ve seen so far in this post, I’m a side sleeper. Doesn’t matter which side, but side.
Y’all I tried to fall asleep on my back for an hour. Didn’t work. And then I utilized the speaker next to my head and asked if I could please just lay on my side for God’s sake. This was at 4 a.m. They were coming to wake me up/the study was ending at 6.
I fell back asleep for what felt like 5 minutes and then I heard the omnipresent voice of Lauren telling me it was 6:24, she’d let me sleep in, and she was coming in to “set me free.” Literally.
I don’t normally wake up at that time, so I was still pretty groggy when she came in. You know what wakes you right the fuck up though? Tape being pulled off your skin that she rubbed a layer off of the night before. More effective than coffee, goddang.
I had to fill out a survey basically about how shitty I slept compared to normal nights at home and then I was free to go. I should have added at the bottom how I believe the least they can give us in the morning for this torture is a damn doughnut.
After they removed all of the electrodes from my head I had a real nice case of Sex Hair, and I was silently thanking myself for bringing a hoodie – which I used to hide said
bird’s nest hair as I Walk of Shamed it out to my car.
Good news: No sleep apnea. Other results within a couple weeks.
Better news: My depression’s still just because of those run-of-the-mill wonky brain chemicals.
Best news: No future as a Batman villain.