Friday, I took my daughter, Stephanie to a neurologist because of an ongoing migraine she has had for three weeks. She was hit by a car when she was three and had two layers of twelve stitches sewn onto her forehead, right above the eyebrow. Since then, she gets migraines from time to time and they go away after a day. Since this one wasn’t going away, I took her to the doctor, who referred her to the neurologist.
I thought we were going there so he could examine her but well, that sort of happened. He examined her and asked about her history. When he found out that my dad has sleep apnea and that my husband thinks I might have it too, I got on the table for an examination. He said if I have sleep apnea, she might also. He then called up the sleep lab right there, and I gave them my information over the phone. They had an opening for that night, so I thought, “why not?”
I came home and packed a bag, drank a Dr. Pepper with dinner, not thinking about it. Then I read on the info packet not to have any caffeine after noon. Uh oh. I went anyway, with a headache that started after I ate some chocolate that afternoon, thinking the Dr. Pepper would make it go away, since caffeine usually does. Not this time. I couldn’t take any pain medication because they want the patient, ( that’s what they call you when you’re in there), to be at their most natural state-not drugged up.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had done some research on sleep a few years ago and thought it would be fascinating to stay at a sleep lab but didn’t think I would end up as a patient there. I pictured one of those “Twilight Zone” shows where the person is in a huge room with a hospital bed in the middle and a big glass wall to their right. Not At All.
When I arrived, I was trying to find the right office, and looked past one with the lights on. Noticing that all the others were dark, I remembered, “Duh! It is 9:30 at night. I am looking for the one with the lights on.”
We get used to going to doctor appointments during the day and seeing all the offices with their lights on. It took a second to click with me that it wasn’t day.
When I walked in, I was amazed. The place was gorgeous! Large paintings on the walls in high quality gold frames, low couches to sit on, with a coffee table in the center, wood floors. My guess is this room is supposed to calm you. I was calmed a little bit.
My room was an actual bedroom. Wood floors, curtains on the windows, a king-size bed and a TV. An adjoining bathroom was decorated with a southern classic look-very cute. It almost reminded me of a small hotel room. Nonetheless, it reminded me of a time when I was pregnant with my first child and took a tour of the Birthing Center at the hospital. The rooms were so nice, with wood floors and curtains on the windows. It scared me because I knew if the rooms were this fancy, the experience would be that bad.
William was my technician for the night. He let me get changed into my nightgown and get ready for bed-I was glad I got to wear my own bedclothes for better comfort. The bed was so tall and I’m so short, ( 5′ 3/4″ ) that I had to climb into it-literally. It was a sleigh bed made of dark wood.
William then came in and hooked me up to 19 wires. Yep, 19. Some of them were all over my head, held on by a gooey paste, two behind each ear, two on my chest, four or five on each leg, a belt around my chest and a belt around my stomach. Oh yeah! I forgot the last two-two up my nose-he said they would be itchy and tickly- he was right. One time during the night, I had to sneeze and was like, “Oh man! What if I knock these things out?” Well, evidently someone thought of that when they designed it because not even a sneeze can force those things out.
The first three hours, I kept waking up and did not even get to the REM stage-stage 3. I finally sat up in bed, trying to rub my head. I didn’t have to push the call button. After a few minutes, William came in and asked if I was OK. He let me take Advil, since, “It’s just Advil,” He said.
After that, I was able to relax and get into a good sleep. I was supposed to let him know when I had to go to the bathroom, so he could unhook the wires from the machine. I felt like a kid. I think I got up twice, the second time, I took a long time to get back to sleep-I think he said twenty minutes. The second time he came in to unhook me, he said, “Well, it’s 3:30. You didn’t get to sleep until 2 because up until then, you kept waking up. You would get into a good sleep and just wake up. You’ve only had one REM stage and that was twenty minutes long.”
I woke up again at 6 something and he told me it was almost over and that I had not made it to stage 3 again. He said he would wake me up last and I had about one more hour to try to sleep well. Every time he left the room, he said, “Try your best,” and I did but it’s really hard to sleep with nineteen wires on you and in an unfamiliar room. Not to mention, those annoying wires up my nose. Let’s not forget the fact that someone was watching me sleep and watching my every move. Who can sleep with that?!
William came in about an hour later and told me that I had another REM stage but it did not last for very long. He said they might record this night as “insufficient data”, which would mean I would have to come in again. William said if I did have to, to try to get as tired as possible.
“I want to come in again,” I told him. “I want you to get an accurate reading and maybe I’ll be more comfortable the next time.”
So, guess what? Fred from the sleep lab called while was typing out this post and said that I need to come back for another night. Since I only slept half the night, they only have half the data they need. I only made it to stage 3 of sleep and there are 5 stages, the deepest sleep. I did have several sleep apnea episodes. The longest I held my breath was twenty-two seconds. On average, it was about eighteen seconds at a time. My oxygen level was supposed to be no lower than 93%. When I was sleeping, it was 94%. During a sleep apnea episode, it went down to 90%. Fred said that a person’s heart has to work a lot harder when they are holding their breath and long term it can cause cardiac arrest, stroke or high blood pressure.
Next time, they want me to stay until 2:00 in the afternoon because they want to test not only for sleep apnea but also narcolepsy and insomnia-which I would be surprised if I have either of those because I am tired often and always trying to catch up on my sleep. I love to sleep-I just wake up in the morning feeling like I closed my eyes but did not get any rest. Maybe by the end of this, I’ll know why.