Enter Sandman...

I go through my life tired. I'm tired from the moment I wake up until about 8 or 9 o'clock at night, just in time to be alert and active at a reasonable bedtime. I often have a hard time staying awake during the day, no matter how much caffeine I consume, and every work day culminates in a "power nap" as soon as I get home. It doesn't seem to matter how much sleep I get; whether it's a meager 5-6 hours or 8-9 hours or more on a weekend, exhaustion is my constant companion. When I used to live with my parents, my chipper father would start every day with an inquiry about whether I was starting my day, "refreshed, invigorated, and ready to face the world," to which my response was always an emphatic "no."

For years, I've been mentioning this to my doctors, only to have my concerns minimalized. In high school, my pediatrician would tell me that I was a teenager, and it was natural to be tired. In college, doctors blamed late night studying and an unpredictable sleep schedule. But now that I'm an adult, working regular hours and going to bed at a relatively consistent time, there were no more easy excuses. When I mentioned my constant tiredness to the new doctor I've been seeing, she ordered a sleep study to get to the bottom of things.

In advance of my appointment with the sleep specialist, I had to answer several pages worth of questions about my sleep habits, and the anomalies in my sleeping behavior. Ultimately, the doctor would prove to be most concerned about the fact that I sometimes dream when I briefly drift off during the day, the fact that I experience hypnogogic hallucinations (I see things that aren't really there when falling asleep or waking up), and that I have sleep paralysis when I take a nap without an alarm to startle me awake. (Sleep paralysis,is an inability to move when you are falling asleep or waking up. Your mind is awake and aware, but your body is paralyzed. It's approximately as scary as it sounds.) These symptoms, combined with the constant daytime sleepiness, are signs of both sleep deprivation, possibly caused by sleep apnea, but also narcolepsy. (Contrary to the way it is portrayed in Hollywood, not all narcoleptics experience cataplexy, the random and sudden loss of consciousness at inappropriate times.) Hence, the doctor wanted me to come in right away for a sleep study, in which I would spend the night at the office and they would monitor my brainwaves, heart rate, breathing, and movement during sleep.

I showed up at the sleep center at 8:30, and was ushered to a room not unlike a cheap hotel room. I would get a queen size bed, a desk, and a small television that only appeared to receive ABC for the evening, and a private bathroom with a lidless toilet and a sink that might have been a spit basin at a dentist's office in a previous life. However, the lack of amenities was the least of my troubles in procuring a decent night's sleep. There were electrodes glued all over my scalp and face to measure brain activity, my eye movement, and whether I grind my teeth in my sleep. There was a tube up my nose to measure my breathing, which was perhaps the most uncomfortable of all the apparatuses I had to wear, as it made me feel like sneezing every time I moved. There were EKG pads glued to my chest, electrodes on my legs to monitor their nocturnal movements, and a sensor near my mouth to measure when and if I breathed through it during the night. I defy anyone to be comfortable in that situation.

This is going to be the most unflattering photo of myself that I'm ever going to put in the public domain.

The technician put me to bed around 9:30, a full two hours earlier than I'm accustomed to going to bed, and woke me at five in the morning -- so early that I had to take a cab home because the bus doesn't even run at that hour on a Sunday. I use the term "woke" loosely, as I'm not sure that I slept much at all during the night. I won't get my results for another two weeks, but for now my greatest concern is that I'll have to go back for another sleepless night due to insufficient data from my first test. This could be one instance in which the cure is worse than the disease...

1 comment:

  1. No fun! Hope you are able to find an answer and solution to your tiredness. Keep us posted!