Back in September, I submitted to an overnight sleep study at a sleep lab in NYC. It was long overdue, as I’ve had issues with sleep for awhile.
It was a really bizarre experience, and I just now finally caved and scheduled the follow-up.
First, the relevant background… I’ve never considered myself a particularly fidgety person. I’m perfectly content to sit on a couch for hours on end, doing very little. But a few years ago, I began noticing something when I’d attend training sessions or conferences: once I had to sit still and be lectured at for an hour, I found myself nodding off.
At first I just figured it was because I hadn’t slept enough the night before, or because it was such spectacularly dry subject matter. (Wouldn’t you fall asleep in five consecutive days of statistics training?)
But then I realized that in offsite meetings where my team would be in a conference room all day, I’d have the same problem, even if it was a subject that I was interested in. Slowly the culprit became clear: if I was sitting still, not moving, not speaking, and not doing something (like multitasking on my laptop or iPhone) I was doomed.
I mentioned this to my new doctor last year, thinking that it might be a case of me needing some kind of medication to either sleep better or stay awake. He suggested, instead, that I participate in a sleep study… Which is how I ended up with this gem of a selfie:
Yes, that’s me, being expected to sleep with all kinds of wires and tubes attached to my face. (And if you think that’s bad, ask me to share the photo of me the next morning… I’m not going to publish it, but I might share privately if you ask nicely and make solemn promises.)
The bottom line: they said I had a mild case of sleep apnea, in which my airway would relax and close as I slept, causing me to partially wake hundreds of times throughout the evening. The result is that I may get a long night of sleep, but because I keep partially waking up, it’s rarely a fully restful night of sleep.
The therapy for this condition is to sleep with a machine (called a CPAP mask) attached to your face, forcing air into your nose and/or mouth with enough pressure to keep your airway open all night. You end up looking like the love child of Darth Vader and Bane, but family and friends who use them swear that it will change your life.
I’d decided not to proceed, because the thought of sleeping with a mask on my face was horrifying (and my fiancé swore he wouldn’t marry me if I slept with one of those things on) but over the past few weeks, I’ve had several repeat occurrences of fighting to stay awake in training classes and conferences. It’s become ridiculous, and I can’t ignore the reality anymore: it’s a problem, and I need to deal with it.
So, two weeks from now, I go back for the second round of the sleep study, when they fit me with a CPAP mask and measure the improvement in my sleep quality.
I’m not especially happy about this development, but I’m cautiously optimistic that it will help my overall health and well being. And if nothing else, the photos ought to be hilarious.