So I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping. Fortunately, I have this forum wherein I can compel our global readership to share their related experiences and advice. The basic problem is this: I don't usually have difficulty falling asleep, both due to work-related mental exhaustion as well as the fact that I take a prescription medication for anxiety also often prescribed for insomnia. However, after anywhere from three to five hours, I wake up, and that seems to be that. My pulse is elevated, though my mind is not particularly troubled or racing; I'm just awake, and can't get back to sleep—no way, no how.
I decided after six weeks or so of this mounting hell to avail myself of a local sleep lab, one affiliated with and on the premises of a reputable local hospital. I'd read about these places before, and went in aware that they are basically designed to diagnose and treat a condition called sleep apnea, which I didn't really think fit my particular symptoms—but who knows, right? I needed help and thought that it might even be an interesting experience.
I checked in to the sleep lab at 9 p.m. per their instructions. The first thing that aroused my skepticism was that no one bothered to take my blood pressure or ask for a list of the prescription medications I take (I take a low-dose antihypertensive that I've been taking for years, plus the aforementioned anxiety pill—possibly relevant?!?!) The room itself was less like a single hospital room, more like a single room at a really cheap motor hotel, I guess in an attempt to simulate the conditions under which most of us sleep. (The techs kept saying, "you can watch TV now," as if this was some great gift.)
I was then hooked up to a variety of wired contacts, all connected to my body with surgical tape: one behind each ear, two or three on various points on my skull, one below my left eye, one above my right eye, two on my chin, two on my chest and one on my back. Then adjustable elastic strips were applied around my neck, chest and waist. Now it's time to go to sleep! Any time I needed to pee, Mohammed (not the Prophet, the sleep lab tech) had to unhook 2 main wires, so that I could carry the central receiver box (about the size of a VHS tape) to the bathroom with me, do my business, then come back and get re-hooked. I was out for the first 1.5 hours, up for another hour and then basically asleep for another four hours until 6 a.m. when the techs woke me up. Mohammed said, "Mr. Berger, your sleep was excellent." If I'd been thinking, I might have asked him to qualify that statement.
Then the daytime tech took over, and the bands around my neck, chest and waist were removed, though everything else remained attached. He then brought me my breakfast which included...wait for it...a cup of coffee (!), which I of course didn't drink. For the remainder of the morning and afternoon, I was made to take a series of "naps" while more data was taken. Now one thing I really hate is that feeling of lying there trying to sleep when you know you just can't, especially when your pulse is elevated and you're still a bit uncomfortable, but whatever—I'm getting the help I need—right? When I was finally released later that afternoon, the daytime tech made a few clicks on a Windows computer and said, "Yeah, you have apnea." Oh really? I thought my sleep was "excellent." He then proceeded to present me with the business card of the "sleep doctor" who would eventually receive all the data from my tests for analysis; the tech said of the business card, "this is a gift," as though he were presenting me with a magical talisman, or at least the answer to my problems.
This is where it stands, as I await a call from the sleep doc's office, typing this at 4:13 a.m., looking forward to yet another semi-cognizant, headachey, partial-shift day at work. I'm not sure I believe that I really have sleep apnea, nor do I think that I can face life having to wear a CPAP device strapped to my face every night. Keep in mind that I do not drink coffee, and my caffeine intake is minimal (maybe a Coke or a green iced tea) and always before 4 p.m. (For you health-food store hippies, yes I have also tried timed-release melatonin, and it just felt like I was trying to stop a truck with a feather duster.)