DOCTOR: You sound congested.
ME: I am.
DOCTOR: You still have your tonsils?
ME: I do; they’re pretty big. ((I wasn’t bragging or anything, I just have large tonsils, and you know what they say about guys with large tonsils…yeah, me neither.))
DOCTOR: Any trouble sleeping?
DOCTOR: Do you snore?
DOCTOR: I want you to have a sleep study.
Fast forward to last Thursday, 8:45pm. I’m at the Sleep Study Center (or is it the Center for Sleep Studies?) at Lake West Hospital with various parts of my body (mostly my head) hooked up to monitors and a camera watching me as I lie in bed and try not to think about the fact that in order for them ((Yes, “them”. I don’t know who “they” are, but I wouldn’t be at all surprise to learn that at least one of “them” is someone’s Big Brother.)) to study me sleeping I first have to go to sleep.
I’m trying not to think of it because I know what happens: once I make the conscious realization that I have to go to sleep, it becomes nearly impossible for me to actually go to sleep.
Oh, yeah, the wires aren’t helping, either. They’re connected to my forehead, temple, cheek, scalp and chest. There are also straps around my chest, stomach and both ankles, not to mention (my favorite) not one but two separate sensors in my nostrils, taped to my cheeks and looped over my ears. The whole setup is a cross between light bondage gear and Six Million Dollar Man fetish porn. ((Of course it exists! Don’t be naïve!))
Now I’m trying, desperately trying to get to sleep, and that just makes things worse. It’s like the old “don’t think about purple hippopotami” trick: once it starts, you just can’t stop, and that way lies madness. It doesn’t help that even the slightest move is accompanied by a gentle, tugging reminder that a thumb-thick bundle of wires is running from somewhere in the vicinity of my left shoulder to a contraption that resembles the old electronics kits advertised in the back of comic books (“300 experiments in 1!”) and if I manage to yank out one of the leads the nice lady (nurse? technician? engineer? dominatrix?) will have to come in and hook me up again.
Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. Neither does the whole sleeping thing, either, at first.
Did it take me two hours to finally fall asleep? Three? Five? I don’t know, but after tossing and turning for what seemed like the entire night I must have finally drifted off, because I’m almost certain I was asleep when I heard the nice lady call my name.
There are mornings when I wake up at home and don’t recognize my own wife for a few seconds, such is my state of cognitive disarray. I can only imagine the horror that would have resulted from awakening in such a state to find myself wired up like Geneviève Bujold in Coma ((It’s a movie from the 1970s, kids, look it up.)) and staring into the face of a stranger. At least I was wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt and would have been spared the added indignity of my lily white butt flapping in the breeze as I ran down the corridors of the hospital, screaming in terror and tearing multi-colored wires off my face.
Thankfully, I was well aware of my surroundings when I heard the nice lady call my name and we were all spared the drama. I was also very tired. On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave the night a 3, only because it was very quiet and at no point did a raving lunatic with a nailgun and a cattle prod break down the door and kill me. Apart from those two saving graces, it was one of the worst night’s sleep I have ever gotten.
The results, they tell me, will be available in two to three weeks. My single greatest fear is not that I have sleep apnea (I’m pretty sure I don’t) but that they’ll tell me there was a minor technical snag in the study—that being that I completely failed to actually sleep at any point during the night—and would I mind terribly coming back in and trying again.
I think I’d rather take my chances with the nailgun-wielding lunatic.