We’re All Dying: A Sleep Study Story

Several months ago when my allergy adventure began (more on that swollen-eyed-during-my-final-teaching-evaluation fiasco in a future post), I went to see an allergist who is also a sleep specialist.

Being a decent doctor who sees me as a complex human being, he took a full history, asking me about every health condition and ache and pain and eventually, we got to sleep. After several questions he stopped typing and paused,

“You sleep like you’re 70,” he said. I stared at him, “yeah, I know.”

He thought for a moment and then replied, “this is going to kill you, sleep is important. You know what, today we will discuss your allergies, in your follow up we’ll talk about sleep. You have two weeks to read articles, do your research, and think about whether you want to do a sleep study.”

Look, I’m a well-educated person who believes in holistic medicine and treating your body like a temple. I eat pretty well, I exercise five days a week, I leave myself 8-10 hours for sleep every night. I know sleep is important, but reading the research scared the absolute sh*t out of me.

Waking up 4-5 times a night. Grinding teeth and clenching hard enough that my jaw pops all morning. Remembering most of my dreams and waking from vivid nightmares multiple times in a week. Waking up breathless. Sleep walking when stressed. All of this adds up to decades off my life, chronic illness, and too many other scary things to think about.

I have said ‘no’ to too many cocktails and pieces of cake, I have run too many miles, and been through too many hours of therapy to die at 50 because I can’t sleep.

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So I went back for my follow up and scheduled a sleep study. As it turns out, sleep studies are super weird.

I arrived in midtown at the same doctors office at 9 pm, you know that magical hour in New York when everyone out is either pissed they aren’t at home or piss drunk, and the empty office buildings feel like horror movies in the making.ย  When I arrived, the tech was there setting up another patient. He brought me into my room which was a consultation room with the couch now pulled out into a bed. He told me to get comfortable and he’d be back to set everything up.

A few minutes later he arrived with two handfuls of long, snaking cords and various other medical equipment. For the next half hour we talked about education policy (because this is my go-to small talk topic) while he glued electrodes to my head, chest, and legs.

Roughly 30 went onto my scalp, leaving gluey goop I wasn’t excited to wash out of my hair the next day. A few went onto my face around the eyes, temples, and jaw. Four went onto my chest and two on each leg. Once applied, the electrodes were connected to their wires and the tech gathered all of the wires together into a bunch over one of my shoulders.

Once hooked up I wanted to take a picture but didn’t have the mobility to make it happen. I imagine I looked something like this:

tenor

I’m glad that the tech found the humor in putting a million uncomfortable things on me and then asking me to sleep. As he set up a mic (to catch any snoring), a heart monitor, and placed an oxygen tube in my nose, he reassured me that most people struggle at first to fall asleep but end up getting there. He told me the results we all considered in the context of an uncomfortable night.

I laughed a little to myself after he left. The AC was too high, I was a ball of human and wires and my actual bed was too far away. Sleep seemed impossible.

However, eventually I did fall asleep. It wasn’t restful but most of the time my sleep isn’t so, no big change there.

At 4:45 on the nose, the tech returned to wake me up. I was exhausted and ready to get the wires and glue off of me. He quickly disconnected me and took the wires off. He left the pads from the electrodes and told me I should pull those off myself. His final advice was to take a really long, hot shower to get all the glue out of my hair.

Never have I wished I had a car more. With no express trains in the morning, it took nearly two hours to get home, covered in glue and electrode pads. I was definitely cute and no one stared at me like I was an escaped mental patient….

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I got the results back a couple of weeks later. I assume the actual timing is faster than this and depends on the doctors schedule, but I was out of town so I pushed it off. The verdict was hardcore sleep apnea. I stop breathing 16-26 times each hour and am only even getting into deep sleep for an hour or two each night. This explains so many things.

The next step is to order and try out a CPAP machine, which essentially has a mask that keeps a constant stream of air flowing so that I can’t stop breathing. While I’m not stoked about this, I’m interested to see how it feels to get some real sleep, who knows maybe I’m not cynical at all, just tired.

If the CPAP isn’t working for me after trying it for a few weeks, there’s a dental device that opens the airway to try. I’ll keep you posted.

Has anyone out there experienced a sleep study or is considering one? I’m here for any questions, stories, or comments if you’ve got them!

Best of luck

We're All Dying (1)

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11 thoughts on “We’re All Dying: A Sleep Study Story

  1. Wow this post was a super interesting read! I would love to do a sleep study myself but I have a feeling it would be difficult to arrange here in the UK without paying ridiculous amounts of money.. I’m pretty sure I don’t suffer with sleep apnea, but I wake up multiple times throughout the night and never feel refreshed throughout the day, even if I get sufficient hours of sleep. Thanks so much for sharing this and I hope everything works out with your treatment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Look into a sleep study if you’re interested. I have city health insurance that tends to make everything difficult but it still worked out, so maybe it wouldn’t be impossible in the UK either. Sleep plays such a vital role in day to day life. Good luck and thanks again for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I did a sleep study, fortunately mine was okay as far as sleep apnea goes but I did have possibly restless leg syndrome. They told me I moved my legs between 30 and 120 times an hour. That was years ago though and now I only have problems when I am over tired.
    Sucks about your trip home, I probably would have sucked up the cost and called Uber

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What the solution for your RLS (if you don’t mind me asking)? That’s what they thought I had for a while too but it turns out any leg activity stemmed from apnea. Glad to hear that it’s not such a prevalent problem anymore.
      As for the uber…I distinctly remember deciding to call one and then checking the price at $70, New York loves to get you with interborough transport…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry I thought I answered this but I was on my phone with sucky internet so maybe it did not go through. I did not take any medication for my RLS. Mostly what I did was change the entire way I cope with stress. Very very little causes me stress these days and I think there is a direct correlation to RLS and stress. Just my personal opinion!! I probably still would have paid $70 for a Uber after doing a sleep study

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Woah that sleep study sounds super stressful!
    I am glad you at least know what is wrong, but the solution sounds pretty stressful too! Good luck and I really hope this helps you rest!

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  4. My mom didn’t do a sleep study like you did, but she was diagnosed with sleep apnea a few months ago. It’s been a struggle for her, because she’s claustrophobic and the mask makes it worse. She bought a smaller one that just goes over your nose, but she’s a mouth breather so it doesn’t work. And every time she’d open her mouth the machine would register she wasn’t breathing (because she wasn’t breathing through her nose) and shoot air into her which would come flying out her mouth. She found it both hilarious and horrifying and insisted I try it. I politely declined.

    Also, when she has to get up in the middle of the night, she just pulls the tube out, which sounds exactly like Darth Vader and scares the shit out of my every time I hear it.

    When she can keep her mask on, though, it works great! She doesn’t wake up as much and she doesn’t snore (praise every deity I’ve ever heard of, because I can hear her snore through the effing wall). It’s just a matter of her being able to keep the mask on.

    I’m curious about the dental device you mentioned. Something like that would probably be better for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The mask is trouble for a lot of people. My friend husband has the nose only mask as well and she said he still snores and now it’s even louder. I honestly don’t know why they still use that once.
      My doctor said the mask and dental device are about the same efficacy, though another doctor friend says the mask is best. However she said the dental device is a great option for people who really can’t tolerate the mask or it isn’t working for them. That sounds like your mom.
      The dental device is top and bottom, like a double night guard. Both are attached on a hinge that keeps your bottom jaw slightly forward so the airway stays open. A lot of medical research says it’s not as good as the CPAP mask but it’s better than not using anything or not using the mask perfectly.
      The only other issue with it is that some insurance companies don’t cover it and it can be a bit pricey out of pocket. I would tell your mom to go to the doctor and tell them the mask isn’t working and ask about the dental device. If it’s not covered, I believe it ranges in the hundreds, not thousands. Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

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