Sleep apnea. That’s what the anesthesiologist reported after my hysterectomy a couple years ago. And I didn’t doubt it: I hadn’t slept well for years.
Finally, I got around to scheduling a sleep study. At first, I wanted an at-home sleep study, where I’d wire myself up with a kit they’d send me. When I saw the kit and realized how I was going to have to disconnect and reconnect to potty the dogs middle of the night, it wasn’t for me. So I scheduled an outside sleep study.
I expected my Stanford doc to send me to Stanford’s sleep center, but she sent me to another one in Sunnyvale, not too far away from Stanford. They cancelled the first appointment — a tech called in sick. But on the new date, I presented myself and my pajamas to be wired up at 8:45pm.
Mushy-gushy did not bode well
Looking around, I was surprised to see the room equipped with a flimsy folding metal bed with mushy mattress. Two mushy pillows.
“Change into your PJs and I’ll affix the leads,” the tech instructed. I hadn’t heard “put on your PJs” since I was 10. PJs! It was kind of cute. Obviously, she has kids.
She pulled out large Qtips and started to clean the skin on my face where leads would be affixed.
“Is that thing tipped with steel wool?” I asked. The sensitive skin around my eyes certainly thought so. It was so abrasive! I was certain I’d need reconstructive surgery.
Using thick, gooey glue, she placed leads on my head, chin, neck. A few in my hair.
“It’s water soluble glue,” she said.
I had more wires than this. And I do have a selfie of my face wired up but it is so horrific that only two trusted friends were allowed to see it.
Bands around my waist and wires down my legs. A pulse oximeter rounded out the procedure. After all, a precipitous drop in oxygen is a big apnea sign.
By 9:15pm I was ready for bed. The number and variety of wires were impressive. They could at least promise me a happy ending, I thought.
I did not say it aloud. Because there is actually a happy-ending massage parlor next door to the sleep place. No joke.
“Do you want me to leave the light on so you can read?” she asked.
I looked around. No bedside table or light. Just the strong overhead bulb. It was more like a place to torture prisoners than sleep. I declined.
Lights out. I began to toss and turn.
The mattress was so soft I couldn’t get comfortable. No box spring, of course. The two pillows flattened out like pancakes the minute my wired-up head touched them. And the room’s heat was cranked way up.
I was still tossing and turning at 10:30. I texted gay husband a photo. He informed me that Stanford’s Sleep Study Center has hotel quality rooms and monogrammed towels in the en-suite bathrooms.
Shut up, I texted back. Because I was not at the Stanford Sleep Study Ritz. I was at the Dis-Comfort Inn. My bathroom was down the hall. Shared.
Sleep was elusive.
The spot in the story where I show you what a big baby I am
Boy, I thought. When they wrote “feel free to bring a stuffed animal or a comfy pillow” in their email, what they should’ve said is: “Forget the stuffed animal. Make SURE to bring your own pillow, since ours are awful.”
“This isn’t working,” I said to the wall, in my best “this is unacceptable” tone. Yes, a camera and microphone were invisibly monitoring me.
The tech came in.
“I can’t get comfortable. These pillows are useless and it’s raging hot in here! And the mattress is ridiculous!”
Yes, I was a big baby. I admit it.
But she wasn’t buying it. “So what’s your plan?” she asked.
“I have no plan,” I said. “My plan is to suffer.”
She brought me two more pillows and turned the heat down.
Immediately it was clear that 4 pillows=1 pancake. But with cooler air, I did fall asleep just after 11.
Isn’t the point for me to actually sleep?
Deep in REM sleep I was aware of someone doing something to my covers. It was 3:30am and my tech noticed that the pulse oximeter had come loose. She fixed it. But then, I was awake. And stayed awake. I could hear the woman next door snoring as I counted sheep.
The tech watched me on camera. I’m sure she thought I was going to drift off again, as my wakeup time was to be 6am.
Where sleep is concerned, I do not drift. Ever.
At 5:15 my tech came in. “You’re not going back to sleep, are you.” It was not a question. “You might as well get up.”
I struggled to get out of that gushy mattress.
“I hope a chiropractic appointment is included in this visit,” I said. Ok. I didn’t say it. I just thought it.
She began to remove leads and dismantle the wires. Great globs of water soluble glue stuck in my hair and on my face. I was not a pretty sight.
“Did you get enough data?” I asked, knowing I was never coming back to the Dis-Comfort Inn. She nodded. Well, that was one good thing.
At home, I stood in shower for 15 minutes scrubbing all that goo off my body and out of my hair. I found two leads still affixed to my chest. She’d missed them. I pulled them off.
Dry and back in clean PJs, I collapsed in the bed with the dogs. Running my fingers through my wet hair, I saw that there was still glue on one spot of my scalp. I became obsessed with it. I didn’t want to get back in the shower so I rubbed at it with tissues til it was no longer tacky.
There is always a coda.
Then, some texts.
GAY HUSBAND: Did you get your results?
ME: No. I have a telemed with the sleep neurologist in 2 weeks to hear.
GAY HUSBAND: At Stanford they gave me the results right away, fit me with a mask and I was done. That morning.
ME: Great. I guess I’ll have to return to the Dis-Comfort Inn to be fit. They must be stretching out the number of visits to get maximum insurance payout. Not just one appointment, FOUR.
GAY HUSBAND: Everything went so smoothly at Stanford.
ME: Shut up.
EMAIL FROM BED TO MY DOCTOR: I am back from my sleep study. There should be no reason whatsoever for you to send your patients to the Sunnyvale Dis-Comfort Inn when Stanford has hotel quality rooms and monogrammed towels.
EMAIL FROM MY DOC: Good to know.
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