The Time the Dr Told Me To Sleep More

Remember that time I had electrodes coming out of my head? About 2 months ago I had a sleep study done to try and figure out why I sit up in my sleep. It took 6 weeks for the results, 2 weeks for a blood test, and then yesterday, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

I got to the clinic right on time. And sat. And waited. Then I got called into a room and they measured my waist and my hips and asked if I’d ever had a heart attack.

Nurse: How many times a night do you get up to use the washroom?

Me: Half.

Nurse: (Smile. Awkward silence)

Me: Once in two nights.

Apparently, reducing fractions is not always helpful. Go figure. Anyway. I sat in the waiting room for 40 minutes. I’m beginning to think that Doctors offices abide by a different time zone, 30 minutes behind local time. Seriously, have you ever been seen with 29 minutes of your appointment? Except at the dentist. Where of course they see you the moment you walk in, because they know that if you sat down and had any time to hear the whirr of the drill or think about someone chipping away at your molars, you’d peace out in a heartbeat. But I wasn’t at the Dentist. I was at the sleep clinic. Where, judging by the wait times, they think we’re all a bunch of narcoleptics who will fall asleep  anywhere.

Anyway, after 30 minutes of ranting in my head came the moment of truth.

As I sat down, the Doctor asked me in an intriguing accent if Rana is my married name. (No one has ever asked this). After saying yes, my draw dropped as he correctly guessed my husband’s geographical, religious and social background within India. Here was a middle-aged, Jewish, South African man noting the subtlety of Indian surnames. Henceforth he referred to Varun as The Raja. (Varun was beyond tickled to hear this when I later relayed it to him.)

Okay, where is this story going? Seriously.

So he tells me I have parasomnias, which is basically any weird thing you do while sleeping. He then walked through the possible factors which might exacerbate my condition. Stress, caffeine, iron…

Dr: Your iron levels are disgusting.

Me: HA! Did you just say disgusting?

Dr: Yes. Sorry, but they are.

Me: Oh don’t be sorry. It’s hilarious.

Then he pulls out the big guns.

Dr: So, your sleep efficiency is 98%.

Me: [Grinning](If you recall, I was super worried about failing my sleep test. And I’m obsessed with getting high marks and being efficient. This score was like a dream come true.)

Dr: This is very bad. Normally, this would be an incredible score. But since you’re having parasomnias, this is the kind of result we see in people who are chronically sleep deprived. Basically, your body is trying desperately to get sleep before you wake up again.

As he explained the diagnosis and possible recommendations, he diagrammed sleep cycles, explained the brain and wrote it all down. I think this is the most help I’ve ever gotten from a Doctor. Apparently, the time in the waiting room was worth it.

After explaining to me that I have to take Iron and vitamin D and stop drinking caffeine (BAHAHA), he mentions, “Oh, and you use an alarm clock to wake up, right?” Um, yeah buddy. If you think I just hop out of bed at 6 am to work out without the blare of my tacky cell phone alarm, you’ve got another thought coming.

He then explains to me that using an alarm means I don’t get enough sleep. Read: My doctor prescribed not using an alarm, and sleeping more. I kid you not, people. If there’s one resource I have that I believe is completely expendable, it’s sleep. My mantra is, “OMG I’m so stressed I’m never going to get this all done it’s okay I’ll just sleep less who needs sleep”. And here this guy comes and tells me to sleep more. Which Varun just thinks is the best news ever because now he has a medical reason to make me sleep in (thereby allowing him to sleep in).

As I left, my brain was in hyper-drive wondering how I’m going to fit sleep into my life when he shook my hand and said, “When you come in for your check-up, I’d like you to see my associate. She’s a resident and needs to see the freaky cases. Sorry to say that, but your case is kind of freaky”.

Poor Varun. More sleep means more time to battle it out for bed space and blankets. Muhahaha….

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The Sleep Study

When I read the instruction guide for the sleep study, I figured it would be straightforward: go, wear some random equipment and sleep. Oh naive little me.

By the time check-in time came at 7:45 pm, I was freaking out. The prospect of not performing well, sleeping in a room watched by strangers and not snuggling with my hubby combined to make me less than pleasant. I made Varun walk me inside, something I think I haven’t done since kindergarten. I was issued my scrubs (ie, pyjamas) and instructed to wait in my bedroom to “get hooked up”. It turns out my scrubs were manufactured for two Amelia’s as I was swimming in the blouse and had to roll the pants several times in order to walk. But I felt so medical and intelligent. Anyway. I sat on my bed and waited. And waited. The technician came in to weigh me and take my height. I mentioned that the air conditioning was on…and could it not be? Her reply? The person in the room next to me sweats in their sleep and this cannot happen or the study will not work. This was the first sign of trouble. Amelia’s do not like the cold.

I waited until 11:15 pm (zoinks!) to get hooked up. As I entered the hook-up room, I knew I was in for a real treat. On the counter sat 20 gauze pads covered in thick goop. I sat in the chair and heard the words, “Okay, I’m just going to mark your head with a red crayon”. Sure, why not? In my head, I was beginning to think this sleep study was poorly scheduled: I had an exam the next morning and had to wake up at 5 am. I had to go to school, sans shower, after a night of having my head red-crayoned. But oh, it gets worse. Remember those gauze pads? Yeah, 20 electrodes were put into my scalp and secured with thick goop. I twisted my hairband in my hands wondering how I could disguise neosporin-like gel in my hair. A side ponytail? Pigtails? A giant sock? Next,  more electrodes were attached to my collarbone. By now, streamers of coloured wire were running down my scrubs and pooling on the floor.

I was instructed to lift my pant leg while the technician asked, “Is it okay if I sand down your leg?”. This is actually one of those questions I didn’t have an answer for, because never in all of my life did I expect to hear that. Word to the wise: say no. Sanding one’s leg is just that: sand paper rubbed vigorously over non-moisturized skin. OMAGOSH.

Back in my bedroom/room of machines, the technician had to help me into bed so I didn’t get tangled in the wires. She plugged the wires into a machine that would measure my brain waves, movement, temperature, eye movement…Then, she strapped a belt over my abdomen and chest. Then she stuck something in my nostrils. Then she stuck something under my nostrils. I forgot to mention that the crayon/electrode combination was also applied to the area above my eyebrows and my jaw. Are you picturing this? Because by now, I look like a cross between Dr. Frankenstein’s monster and a woman with very, very frizzy hair that is sprouting coloured wires.

After a series of tests which included not blinking for 30 seconds, blinking, breathing, and holding my breath while moving my stomach in and out (try that one, it’s quite hard), the technician came in to say goodnight. I willed myself to sit up in my sleep. I looked at the camera over the bed and the darkened spotlight I knew was somehow illuminating me, and I begged myself to have a bad nights sleep.

And I did. But not the right bad sleep. (That’s confusing and hurts my head too).

Forced to sleep on my back and conscious of the 25 wires attached to various parts of my person, I didn’t get cozy. And I didn’t sit up. I had five hours to show my stuff, and I just laid there sleeping. Sigh.

In the morning, I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror and thought, “Varun will be here in fifteen minutes to pick me and then I’m going to school. MUSH MUSH MUSH!” (This is what I tell myself to work harder. It comes from watching too many movies about dog sled racing when I was a small child. If you didn’t yet think I’m insane, that was your proof). I vigorously scrubbed red crayon off of my face and tried with a paper towel to get the gunk out of my bangs. Nothing doing. Panicked, I did the only thing I could think of: I left the electrodes on (no wires) and the gauze. I pulled my shirt over the ones on my chest, pulled my jeans over the ones on my calves, and pulled my hair into a bun that covered the chunks of gauze. I put on a headband, a ribbon (overkill, n’est-ce pas?) and bobbypinned my hair into place over the chunks of greasyness. Feel free to un-friend me at any time.

I was informed by the technician that I’ll get the results in 6 weeks. If there’s a problem, they’ll call me back in for another sleep test. I’m hoping that my sleep was weird enough that they could still notice something, like maybe what causes me to sit up…Or maybe I’ll outgrow that habit. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the bliss of a non-air conditioned room, and a raucous sleep filled with sitting up and non-greasy, non-electrodey hair.

Les Petits Choses

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it“.  -Dostoyevsky

1. Friday afternoon tea with my dear friend Beth. We talked about boys, authentic community, old friends and dreams for the future. I later remarked to Varun that I love hanging out with Beth because she’s one of my oldest friends whom I still see regularly. Varun and I marveled at how much transition our lives have gone through that someone I met in 2008 is one of my “oldest” friends. In any case, she is lovely.

2. Healthcare. After falling and scraping up my palms, Varun and I sat in the E.R. observing nurses and patients and guessing at people’s ailments. After receiving caring attention from the Doctor, extra bandages and a great prognosis, we left the hospital less than 2 hours after arriving. We grinned that a trip to the E.R. was so uneventful–such a small thing. We were thankful that we live in a place where we have healthcare, skilled Dr.’s and everyone has a right to medical care.

3. This week, I also rediscovered the Kiwi.

There’s really nothing to say except: Go buy kiwis. Devour. Repeat.

4. My husband. I find so much joy in being married to Varun. Much of the time, he amuses me to no end. Yesterday, he blew my mind. While I pathetically tried to clear off the table with bandaged hands, he ran to the white board with an epiphany.

This is about 1/4 of his sketch. He asked me to email it to him so he can work on it today. I think it has something to do with a bridge he’s monitoring for work…Um, I know.  [Yesterday, I helped Varun with his performance review. As we talked through his projects and accomplishments it struck me just how smart and how hard working he is. Seriously, look at that diagram.

Me: So, I think you’re a wayyy bigger nerd than I usually think.

Varun: Why?

Me: Um. You just said, “My greatest strength is physics and mathematics.”

(I can’t help but smile thinking about this…)]

I’m thankful that my smart and nerdy hubby loves me. I’m thankful that he gracefully washed dishes all week and exhorted me to rest my hands.

What about you? What brought a smile to your face this week?!

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