Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sleep Study

I had complained to my doctor about sleepiness at my previous wellness exam.  He recommended a sleep study for sleep apnea.  I declined.  I would have to stay overnight at the city hospital.  But at the next visit when we discussed the topic, I decided to go through with it.

Even before the doctor mentioned sleep apnea, I was pretty sure I had it.  Ever since I could remember, I would wake up groggy and somewhat out of breath.  I've had a few dreams in which I was holding my breath underwater and then I'd wake up gasping for air.  And my wife would wake me to complain that I was snoring very loudly and "snort like a gunshot."

And I remember that when I was on pain meds after sinus surgery, I would realize I had stopped breathing while drifting off to sleep.  When I mentioned this to the ENT surgeon at a followup visit, he dismissed my complaint as just a vivid imagination.

But I declined the initial sleep study referral because the only solution is either surgery, an oral appliance, or a machine that forces air into your nose (a CPAP machine).  None of these options appealed to me.  But I reconsidered because the study itself wouldn't cost anything, and the solution would be partially covered.  The main reason I reconsidered was because my wife made me do it.

I had a private room at the hospital with its own bathroom.  I changed into my PJs.  The technician suggested that I relax a bit and watch some TV.  Then when I was ready to go to bed, I should let him know so that he could attach electrodes to my body.

I don't watch TV.  I usually read before I go to bed, but I had forgotten to bring a book.  But I did find a TV channel that played relaxing music.  It didn't really matter because at that point in my life I was so thoroughly tired all the time that I could fall asleep quickly nearly anywhere, even standing in a line at a bank.  I went through the motions of a pre-bedtime ritual only for appearances sake -- I felt that the technician expected me to watch TV before going to bed.

After a short while, I was in bed, and the technician was attaching electrodes to my scalp, wrists and ankles, and attached a pulse oximeter to my finger.  He explained that the doctor ordered a "split" sleep study.  In this type of study, the first half would include just a monitoring phase.  If during this phase I should stop breathing, the technician would wake me and attach a CPAP machine to me.

I fell asleep right away, despite all the wires attached to me.  And then right away, inexplicably, the technician woke me up.  "What's going on?  Why'd you wake me up?" I asked a bit crossly.

"You have the worst sleep apena I've ever seen.  You really surprised me.  When you first walked in, I didn't think you'd have it.  Most of the folks who have sleep apnea are very overweight.  Boy was I wrong!"

He placed a special mask over my nose and explained that it would keep my airway open using air pressure, which he'd adjust remotely.  He'd be able to determine an optimum pressure that would be programmed into my own machine once I got it.

The next time I woke up, it was morning.  I actually felt refreshed.  It was amazing!  It was still early as I drove home.  Traffic was light, and I had the whole day ahead of me.  I had the euphoric sense that infinite possibilities were within reach.

The story continues here with My CPAP Breathing Machine.


Rummuser said...

So, what does that all mean? Will you be wearing a gadget when you go to sleep to ensure that you will sleep well?

Square Peg Guy said...

Yes sir, I wear a gadget when I go to sleep. It's called a CPAP machine. But that's a whole other story.

Thanks for commenting!