The Night of the Long Wires

Well, I am home after my night at the sleep clinic. My sleep is still broken — they didn’t magically cure me after a night there. The first night there is when they hook you up to some monitoring equipment so they can tell you later what is wrong with you.

I am glad they only have to do it once.

Last night, I drove out to a neighbouring city to a small-ish office building across the street from their Very Bad Hospital, and after searching for a few minutes, found the parking lot. I checked in at about 8:15, well before the 8:30 deadline. I got to the door of the clinic building and read the office signs that said the overnight monitoring was on the 3rd floor. So I went up the elevator and into the 3rd floor, which was full of closed doors. Since I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t know what those closed doors were. There was not a sign to be seen anywhere. But I could hear people, women’s and men’s voices, behind those closed doors. And there were a few rooms open that looked like small apartments, with unmade beds and little kitchen units and a TV and such, so I figured I had the right place.

I called “helloooooooo?” a few times, until a young woman in scrubs came out. She looked and very sternly asked what I wanted. I apologized and said I was looking for the sleep clinic. Annoyed, she asked how I got in. I told her I had just walked in. Apparently this was why she was annoyed, because the door downstairs was supposed to be locked and you were to buzz to be let in, so they would have known I was there and coming up. Also, the door being open is a big security problem in an otherwise empty office building in a quite frankly bad neighbourhood.

I walked through the clinic, which was full of computer stations and mostly men in their pyjamas wearing wires, and was shown to my room. The tech told me to fill in a questionnaire and when I was done, get into whatever I was wearing to sleep in, and wait until she came to get me. The questionnaire was quickly done, just general health questions and questions about my sleep, so I got changed, got myself organized, and sat down and started to read my book.

After about half an hour, the tech came back and took my questionnaire, and said if I had to go to the bathroom I should do it first, because afterwards it can be a challenge. So I did. When I was finished, she took me to a chair in the middle of the clinic, sort of like a hairdressing station, and started to prepare to hook me up.

First she did head measurements, and made about 5 big X marks on my head with a grease pencil. Then she got some paste and stuck little wee electrode thingies to my scalp with the paste and some tape. EW. Not cool. She said it was to monitor brain activity. Then she began fastening more of these electrode thingies to various other parts of my head: one behind each ear, one on one temple, another under one eye, one on my chin. These were to monitor various things like eye movement, grinding my teeth… anything that could be part of diagnosing my sleep problems.

I had tape all over my head. The wires from the electrodes were strung down my back like a wire ponytail.

Then she fastened a little electrode thingy to my neck, which she said was a microphone so she could hear me snore and other noises I might make. NIIIICE.

Next was a bunch of electrodes to monitor my heart rate and breathing. First she attached some to my chest and back, then she put two straps containing electrodes around my chest, one up top under my armpits and one lower down around my ribcage. I began to regret my choice of pyjamas. My shirt was bunchy and I was uncomfortable.

Finally, she attached some electrodes to my legs to check for leg movements. these had really long wires that came up over my shoulder to join the ever-growing wire ponytail down my back. Then all the wires were attached to this little box that I wore like a purse over my right shoulder.

So, head taped up like a bizarre Xmas present, and wires sticking out all over, I was free to relax until 10 pm, when she would come to my bedroom and get me hooked up and ready for sleep. I got myself ready for bed — set up an alarm clock, took my medicines, had some water — and read while I waited.

She came in just after 10, and I got into bed. She hooked my little monitor purse up to the wall, and she put one of those oxygen things up my nose, so that I felt for the rest of the night like I had a big plastic booger in each nostril. That got hooked up as well, to monitor my breathing, and she put a little heart rate clip on my finger. Then we were ready to do The Test.

The test requires you lay flat on your back on the bed and they check that all the electrodes are working properly. Through an intercom and watching you on a camera, the tech tells you to do various things like look left and right, blink, cough, hold your breath, to test everything is working properly. Once it is, the tech switches off the light and you are watched on camera all night long. OH JOY. As if THAT doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable. Since you’re all attached to the wall, if you need anything during the night, you just ask, because you are wearing a microphone.

And with that, lights out.

My room was totally quiet. Too quiet. I could hear every snort and cough in other rooms. I heard the tick-tick-tick of the tech on her keyboard. Plus it was very warm, and I instantly regretted not turning on the fan in the room before getting into bed. Also, with all the wires on running behind my back, I was sure I was lying on some wires, because I had very limited head movement. I felt like my head was taped to the bed. I lay there, hot and in a very uncomfortable position with my head at an odd angle, and tried to sleep.

I was miserable.

I fell asleep after about half an hour, only to wake back up again. The tech came into my room to get some equipment from the nightstand that she needed to use in another room. I was so tired, and since I had already been asleep, I did not ask for any fan or any sleeping pills (they are available if you want them) or any assistance. I just wanted to sleep. I kicked off the covers and tried to go back to sleep.

And I did get back to sleep, although I woke about every 15 minutes or half an hour and checked the time on my alarm clock. And at one point, after 1 am or so, I slept straight through for a couple of hours. But all in all, it was not a good sleep. I slept, on and off, for most of the night, finally waking for good at 4:45.

Wake up call was was at 5:30, so I lay there on my bed for the last 45 minutes or so and tried to while away the time. I was miked and on camera, so I was limited — couldn’t sing or hum, couldn’t make any silly hand movements or do any little dancing-things. Just lay there, begging to myself for it to be over. And finally, at 5:30, my tech came in. She’d seen me wide awake and got me up first.

She helped disentangle me from all the wires and took off all the probes. I had great freaking lumps of paste in my hair. I had a shrieking headache. I was exhausted and warm and miserable. There was a post-sleep questionnaire to be filled out, and then I was free to go.

Nothing felt so good as the car air conditioning as I left, I can tell you. Well, nothing except the long, hot shower I had when I got home to get all the guck and paste off myself, and then the long sleep in cool sheets I had this morning after BDH left for work.

I feel like I have a hangover.

But, my misery is all for a good cause, because the doctors will have lots of information when they study my results. And hopefully, there will be lots to tell me and something they can do when I meet with them in September for follow up. So, while I feel exhausted now, in a few months time I hope that my sleep will be mended, and I won’t have to feel tired every day anymore.

Hopefully the night of the long wires will be worth it.

6 thoughts on “The Night of the Long Wires

  1. What in incredible insight into this process. I used to type these reports for sleep study all the time, all words that really mean nothing to me, but hearing you go through the process is very enlightening. I hope it was worth it for you and you get some results.

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