A few weeks before poor old Cass went for her big sleep I went for a sleep study. My family has commented on my snoring over the past 18 months, I wake several times a night, hardly ever feel rested in the mornings and take every opportunity to have an early night or an afternoon nap. I mentioned this to my GP and she wrote me a referral. The study involved an overnight stay at a sleep laboratory, the Woolcock Centre, Glebe. I chose a Friday night because I expected to feel pretty washed out the next day and didn't want to have to front up to work. As the doctor I saw today maintained I slept for 6 hours (not the 2 it felt like) that may have been a self fulfilling prophecy.
Before I left work on the night of the study I mentioned where I was going and a colleague said she ought to go to a sleep lab, that she knew she stopped breathing several times a night and was too scared to have a day time snooze in case she did so permanently. I immediately felt like a complete alarmist as my symptoms are trivial compared to hers. I had to check in at 7 pm - not enough time to go home and cook dinner first so I convinced my husband and daughter it would be nice to have a meal in Glebe. We cut it fine and I had some trouble getting access to the Woolcock Centre carpark, so we opted for a restaurant a few doors away.
The dashing waiter (he had a waxed moustache and new romantic ringlets a la Adam Ant) asked why we needed to be out in a hurry and I told him what I was doing. 'Why?' he enquired 'I snore' I replied. 'In that case, I should book in' he said as he topped up my merlot ('to help you sleep') and confided that he snores so badly his wife regularly exiles him to the couch.
At 7.10 my family farewelled me as if I was about to undergo serious surgery not sit in an Ikea style visitors' lounge sipping green tea until a delightful Indian research student ushered me to a comfortable bedroom (with en suite) to start the first phase of my wiring up. Mohatma (I'll call her that to protect her identity and because I can't recall her actual name) could not have been clearer, more considerate or thorough. After attaching the first set of wires she suggested I might like to go and relax in the lounge. Glancing at my tendril exuding reflection in the mirror I said it might be hard for me to relax in a public setting looking as I did. We were all in the same boat Mohatma said, so there was no need to feel self consciousness. Off I boldly went. During my 3/4 hour in front of the huge plasma screen watching an SBS doco on Robert J Oppenheimer only 2 of the other 'inmates' scurried in and hurriedly departed. Clearly looking like a pasty complexioned, pyjama -clad android in the repair shop themselves or thinking I was one does inhibit social interaction!
At about 8.45 Mohatma summoned me for my final wiring. It was basically as depicted here but a bit more intrusive as I also had electrodes gummed onto my scalp and taped to my arms and legs, belts around my chest and midriff and a peg thing on one finger of my left hand. My hair was definitely a tad mussed up too - not like this guy's smooth coiff.
At 9.50, when I was all plugged in, Mohatama went to the observation room down the corridor to check she was getting readings. She asked me to raise first one leg then the other, each of my arms in turn, to look up, down, right and left and to blink, then, apparently satisfied, she popped back to bid me good night and explain that the microphone in the room would pick up any calls for assistance during the night.
When I called out 3 times seeking permission to swap the peg thingy from my pinkie (where it was pinching) to my middle finger and was unheeded, I took the initiative and swapped it myself. Luckily nothing else required their intervention overnight. I managed to avoid a visit to the loo (which would have required some unplugging) but did need to take ibuprofen for back pain (that mattress really agreed with me though, I woke up twinge free, must check what it was). I was woken up promptly at 6 from what I thought was my only episode of deep sleep. As I was unaware of any snoring and my mouth felt decidedly undrooly I felt I had spent quite an atypical night and that they would learn nothing or I would be pronounced just a bit restless or stressed.
After being sprayed with delightful jets of tepid water to un-gum my attachments I was allowed a shower and was released. By 7 I was on the road home. I noticed how many denizens of Glebe were already up and about at dawn. Perhaps they have trouble sleeping?
Well today I got to hear the results of the study and got a diagnosis of mild sleep apnoea. No mouthgards or breathing apparatus recommended at this stage but my weight and alcohol consumption definitely under scrutiny. I don't know if I was in denial before or hoped for a 'magic bullet', but I feel rather despondent. Perhaps that's why people endure appalling quality sleep and don't get the study done. They won't have to confront their unhealthy habits!
If the mere mention of what I was doing elicited poor sleep confessions from 2 people (and I've since heard more sleep stories), how many people have a snorty little secret I wonder?
Postscript: the stories keep on coming. One friend literally did not sleep a wink for his sleep study but then dozed off after he was told he could leave and was woken by the cleaners that afternoon! Another is on her second breathing machine and has slept with a mask for years! It seems people talk about almost anything else they do in bed but their sleep habits are taboo!