The Sleep Study

By Hannah Wallace March 11, 2011

Headed up the road to Somnomedics on Manatee Avenue at a little after 8 p.m., Thursday night. They tell you not to arrive early because, basically, nobody would be there before 8:15. I rang the doorbell and a woman who looked about my age, wearing blue scrubs, came out from an office and asked me my name before she unlocked the door. I suddenly realized the potential threats of being alone (with sleeping people), overnight, in a small office a couple blocks removed from populated First Street.



Forms, wires and remote.


First (of course) was paperwork, plus a video about “OSA: obstructed sleep apnea”—the obstruction being your own tissue relaxing itself over your esophagus. Which…is pretty much what I already characterized as “sleep apnea.” Wondering why the clarification was necessary. Is there another kind of sleep apnea where, like, people periodically put pillows over your head while you’re sleeping? I’m glad I don’t have that, then.


The setting.

Forms done, I changed into my PJs and flipped through the TV to Finding Nemo, then explored my surroundings. To be honest, I expected something a little more like a hotel room—although that really doesn’t make any sense, now that I’ve been through it. I really didn’t know what to expect. The only sleep study experience I could think of was a Mad About You episode. And I didn’t even like that episode.



Bedside doodads.


After a few minutes, the technician came back and set up a chair in front of the television. She began placing sticky little doodads all over my head and neck, explaining what she was doing in between making friendly conversation (she was quite personable, in a relaxed way, which really helps a hyped-up neurotic like myself). By the time Nemo made his final escape, I had something in the vicinity of 17 different wires draped from various points: two on the back of my neck, the back, side and top of my head, my temples, my chin, my suprasternal notch (that’s the Almasy bosphorous, for all you English Patient fans out there) and my collar bones, plus one on each shin, straps around my stomach and chest, and an oxygen reader taped to my nose. This…did not seem like it was going to be easy to sleep in, but the DVD had assured me that “most people find it surprisingly comfortable.”


Yeah, I call bullshit.


I waited until the last possible moment to get hooked into the bedside machines—partly because once you’re hooked up, you can’t go anywhere unless they come back and unhook you. And partly because I had to summon the technician by talking to the empty room (she was listening in by speaker; I wonder if she enjoyed those 20 minutes of The Jersey Shore).




I got strapped in, and then the real pressure began: sleep on command. Hard enough, but more so when your every movement is being recorded and analyzed. Also, I kept worrying I was going to roll over violently (as is my wont) and dislodge the wires.



Wake-up time, I’d been warned, was 5 a.m. Also, if she gathered enough apnea evidence, she’d arrive in the middle of the night and hook me up to the C-PAP machine. (But there had to be so many documented instances of apnea first, she told me; otherwise, insurance wouldn’t cover the study.) So on top of trying to go to sleep, I was braced for being suddenly awoken.


I lay there 20 minutes or so, terrified of screwing up the study by being unable to sleep. Next thing I knew, the door opened. “Hannah? I’m sorry, we need to fix your leg.” My brain registered nothing but random characters: @&0*. Does not compute. She reconnected the wire to my left shin and was off again with three more apologies. What the hell just happened? What time is it? Great, now I’ll never be able to get back to….


Suddenly again, door opened to the bright hallway. “Hannah? Good morning.” Wait, we’re done? I spent the whole evening, it felt, being painfully aware of my surroundings, but somehow I’d managed to spend most of it unconscious.


No C-PAP, so I must not have been that bad. Which makes me feel sort of bad in and of itself, like when the doctor the other day declared my painful left knee looked great; I’m so afraid of being a hypochondriac. I suppose I’ll get more details when I revisit Dr. Borg. In the meantime, I’m going to stop complaining about the cat sleeping on my ankles at night. It could be worse.

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