At around 8:30 Wednesday night, I arrived once again at the Sleep Center to begin my study. I sat in a waiting area for a few minutes with three or four others, all of whom were much older than me. I was then shown to Room #3, which according to the technologist Dustin, was "not quite the Hilton, but not too bad either." He asked what time I normally went to sleep and I told him 11 (kind of a lie, considering I haven't gone to bed before midnight for weeks). So he left and I read my book for the next hour and a half or so. At 10, Dustin returned to begin the laborious process of hooking up all the necessary wires and electrodes. Guys, this process is not for the faint of heart. The first step involved a lot of measurement of my head and marking it with a marker in various points. He then put some kind of jelly-like paste on the many spots where the electrodes had to go, cheerfully informing me that five years ago, they had to use Super-Glue for this. (I shudder at the thought of washing globs of Super-Glue out of my hair.)
Once the glue was in place, it was time for the wires. I would say there were approximately ten different electrodes and wires on my head alone. In addition, there were also two EKG wires on my chest to monitor heart rate and two wires on each ankle to test for Restless Leg Syndrome. Once I laid down, he fastened one strap around my torso and one around my abdomen that had respiratory sensors in them to keep track of when I was breathing. Then he inserted a "nasal cannula" which is one of those clear tubes that has two sprouts that go into each nostril, as well as something underneath called a thermal coupler consisting of two wires that somehow tracked if I breathed through my mouth. I might add that many of these tubes and wires were hooked behind my ears. My ears are quite tiny, and this became quite painful when trying to fall asleep and lay on the side of my head. As a final touch, almost an afterthought, he placed my right pointer finger in some sort of large plastic contraption that was connected to yet another wire. It was strange and I can't figure out what the purpose of that one was.
After all this was hooked up, it was almost eleven. Dustin turned out my lights so it was pitch black in the room and left. He then proceeded to talk to me through the speaker next to my bed and guide me through the "Patient Calibration Exercises." This consisted of commands: Lay there with your eyes open. Lay there with your eyes closed. Move your eyes to the right. Left. Straight ahead. Up. Down. Flex your right ankle. Flex your left ankle. Grit your teeth. (et cetera.) After the calibration exercises were finished, I was instructed to get comfortable. It took me a good five minutes to figure out even a remotely comfortable position. And then it took me forever to fall asleep. The next morning, they told me that it took twenty minutes, but I am used to being out as soon as I hit the pillow so it felt like AGES to me. I didn't sleep all that well. (I think the box on my finger was the clincher. I like to sleep with my hand under the pillow and that made things difficult.)
At 6 a.m., I was awakened by Dustin's voice over my speaker. He came in and removed the breathing straps, nose tubes, and the finger box (thank goodness.) A few minutes later, Dr. LeGrand, the doctor I had seen the day before, came in to discuss the results of the overnight test with me. I do not have sleep apnea, I do not snore, and I do not have Restless Leg Syndrome. (No surprises here.) Basically all this told them was that I needed to stay for the daytime Multiple Sleep Latency Test, affectionately known as MSLT. I knew I was going to have to do this anyway. After receiving a breakfast of a cold bagel and strawberry cream cheese, I was instructed to stay awake for two hours so that I could begin the next test. I watched the Today Show for awhile and read a couple magazines I had brought with me. At around 8:30, however, when my first test was scheduled to begin, the power went out in the hospital. It was kind of a bummer because it stayed out for about 20 or 30 minutes and there wasn't much I could do. The emergency generator powered the hall light and my bathroom light, but there was still not enough light in the room to read and obviously the TV would not work. I remembered about halfway through the power outage that I had my iPod with me, and I listened to some Fleet Foxes until the lights came back on. It took awhile for the computers to boot back up after that, so the first test didn't start until about 9:15.
The tests consisted of five naps at various times throughout the day. Basically, I would perform the patient calibration exercises, the nurse would tell me to take a nap, and then about 30 minutes later she would wake me up. Then I would wait for an hour or two. In between I watched a lot of TV even though the hospital does not have a very good selection of TV channels. I also read some of Enduring Love, but I kind of had a headache and reading was making me want to fall back asleep again, an activity from which I was strictly prohibited between authorized naps (for obvious reasons).
I didn't finish until about 5:15 pm. The nurse told me to be expecting a phone call either Monday afternoon or Tuesday after Dr. LeGrand had a chance to look at my results. However, she did say that from what she could tell my tests did exhibit symptoms of narcolepsy. With a very concerned tone, she advised me to be careful driving home. And that is the (not very exciting) story of my sleep study. It was, in all truthfulness, pretty boring. A DVD player would have made it a little better. Or perhaps a bunch of friends all completing the study with me. Actually... that might be fun. It would be like a slumber party. And it would provide for some good photo ops. Next birthday, anyone?