I’m one of the millions of sleep apnea sufferers. I have to sleep with what I call “the Darth Vader mask” over my nose at night to let my family get some sleep, keep the plaster in the house from cracking, and prevent angry phone calls from outraged seismologists who mistakenly believed a new volcano was forming in Cincinnati’s northern suburbs. And frankly, I can’t sleep without the CPAP, the machine the mask is hooked up to.
Periodically, I need to go in for a sleep study, which I did this past weekend. Actually, I haven’t had one in ten years. So this follow up was a bit of culture shock. What happens?
You show up around 8 or 8:30 in the evening. The place looks like a cross between a clinic and a Holiday Inn Express. They show you to your room, and then you hang out in the lounge watching TV with the others there to spend the night snoring. And I discovered something interesting about old people. They will apologize profusely for watching Flashpoint and CSI:New York. Why? I don’t know. The guy in the other room wasn’t apologizing for watching the Reds. (Dusty Baker, on the other hand, should for this season.)
Around 10 PM, it’s time to hit the sack, but one just doesn’t crawl into bed and turn the lights out. Oh, no. This is a sleep study, and they need to wire you up to scan your brain, your respiration, your heart, your breathing, every leg twitch, every eye twitch, even your morning breath. And boy, do they wire you up.
You’re plugged into a box where almost two dozen electrodes, which must be hooked up in sequence, are connected between you and that box. The box comes with a shoulder strap because you have to take all these wires, the straps around your chest and waist, and the two sensors shoved up your nose with you when you go to the bathroom.
Then it’s time to go to bed. I had what’s called a split night, which means the first couple of hours are spent without a machine to keep my throat open. They want to see what happens when I don’t use it. I, of course, know what happens. I wake up a lot. I wake up with dry mouth, a sore throat, and a pounding headache. And all these things did indeed come to pass before 3 AM, when the tech came in to pull the two nose sensors and pull on my mask for me. Then I slept like a baby.
Until they turned the pressure all the way down on the mask. I woke up twice when I did this. Let’s just say I didn’t appreciate it.
The worst part of this torture was the end of the study. Not that the staff wasn’t courteous or efficient. They were, very much so. Most hotels need to take notes. But I left a 6:30 wake up call when I scheduled my study, and 6:30 on a Saturday morning is a horrible time to wake up. Most times, I’d better be working or going somewhere to give up that much sleep time.
The result of all this? The sleep specialist, who positively freaked when he saw I hadn’t been back in 11 years, told me they would definitely have to turn my pressure up, that he didn’t understand how my blood oxygen could be so high since I hadn’t been examined in over a decade.
They turned my pressure down after I had my study.