Sleep Apnea is where your body forgets to breathe while you sleep. Or, to be less dramatic, an “event” where your oxygen intake is below average. For some people, this almost never happens while they sleep. For others, it happens constantly. I have sleep apnea. I’ve likely had it for a long time, but I am not sure; I was asleep at the time, after all.
The problems with sleep apnea are pretty memorable: you might die. Also, you have reduced energy since your body is basically going “HEY! HEY!” all night and clanging on the pipes to send down more oxygen, motherfucker. This fills your body with a general sense of unease, like when you’re on a date that looks like they’re the marrying kind after one dinner. I knew I had a problem with the sleep, but I kind of toughed it out since I figured it was just the way things are.
Recently, though, I decided I had a lot of living left to do, so I’ve been going through trying to find all the fun stuff wrong with me. I’ll be seeing an allergist, and a kidney specialist, but I also insisted I go through a sleep lab study, to see if anything is actually out of whack. After all, one can convince oneself of anything. Maybe my snoring was A-OK and just a misery to unfortunately proximate companions/associates.
(In the late 1990s, I was convinced that I had destroyed my hearing; I decided to go get a test. I went to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary and after a battery of tone listening and reporting, I was told I had better than perfect hearing. So sometimes the dice fall in my favor.)
In a sleep lab test, you go to a hospital and meet up with technicians, who have at their disposal a set of rooms. My room was a bit huge, and I feel like they must be used for something else. My technician, Will, was friendly and genial for about 2 minutes but quickly fell into a depressed state; this must be the worst job in the world… or he has sleep apnea!
They measure your heart/brain activity, breathing, and muscle movement. All well and good. What this means is they attach electrodes to your face (4 places), head (4 places), legs (4 places), chest (2 places) and attach two bands across your stomach and chest. They also strap this mask onto your nose that goes up your nose. And then you get to go to sleep, like Alex did in Clockwork Orange.
While you sleep, a camera watches you via infrared. This is all rather scary or perhaps exciting, depending on your own Maslow’s pyramid of needs. For me it was just great that I was finally getting this looked at.
Another neat feature was they record your sleep. Snoring, talking, and so on. Since they do this, they also say that if you need anything, just ask. When I woke up during the night, I simply said “Will, I’d like some water” and a voice went “Okay”. That was the best part.
What was not the best part was a gout attack at 2am. Turned out that strapping a belt across my stomach triggered some unpleasant movement with my kidney stones and off I went to the world of pain. My left foot started hurting very badly and there was no way I could continue sleeping.
This is OK, by the way; the documentation that came with my sleep lab appointment explained to me that they only needed a couple hours of data to really understand you, so even though I only slept about 3 and a half hours before having to go home and drop tons of pain meds, they got the data they needed.
It turns out I have over 15 “sleep events” an hour. So once every 3 minutes while I sleep, I stop breathing or otherwise have my body freak out from lack of something it needs, that is, air. This means I’m due to have a fitting for a CPAP machine, which will force air down my throat while I sleep. I’ve been told that after a few weeks of this, you don’t even recognize yourself. Here’s hoping!
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