Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, this time to share the joys of undergoing a sleep study in order to discover if I have sleep apnea or not.
Back in April, my husband reported that I was showing classic symptoms of sleep apnea—I’d stop breathing while sleeping, then wake myself up with a start. Of course, I had no idea I was doing this, since I was asleep. I was skeptical to begin with, but a little research told me that sleep apnea could be a contributing cause of my high blood pressure, the panic attacks I occasionally have while at writers’ conferences, and a couple of relatively minor ailments I’ve suffered from, on and off, over the years. I suppose I never thought of sleep apnea before because I’ve always been a restless sleeper and I tend to make good use of that new upstairs bathroom we installed last summer. Quite often, I also get up for a half hour or so in the middle of the night and read until my restless leg syndrome calms down.
It took me some time to get an appointment with my primary care physician (she’s very popular and this wasn’t an emergency) and then there was another wait for an appointment at the Sleep Center at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, but eventually I was scheduled to report in at 7:30 on an early October evening and spend the night being monitored.
It will be an adventure, I told myself. I can use this in a blog, I said. Well, both predictions turned out to be true, but my biggest takeaway is the realization that very little in life is better than getting a good night’s sleep.
The sleep study involved being monitored while I slept. I signed a paper giving permission for a camera to record my movements during the night. Then the polysomnographic technician attached wires to my head to record brain waves, which would tell her if I was asleep and how deeply. Another wire was attached to my finger to make sure I was getting enough oxygen. More wires made sure my heart was beating. All of these fed into a unit mounted on the wall. Fortunately, it could be detached and hung over my shoulder like a purse when I had to get up to use the bathroom.
I was told that if I did show signs of having sleep apnea, I might be awakened and fitted with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, but that if those signs didn’t snow up until late in the study (after 3AM), I might have to come back for another session because there wouldn’t be time to tell if the treatment was working. With that information to mull over, I was left on my own while my technologist went off to set up the second patient she’d be monitoring overnight.
I passed the time reading (big surprise!) and since I usually go to bed between 10 and 11, I was already yawning when she came back to announce lights out at 10:30. To aid in sleeping, I’d brought my own pillow. The bed, although narrow, was comfortable, but I was trailing at least a dozen wires, which made turning over a little tricky.
I think you can guess what happened. Could I fall asleep? Of course not. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn. Accidentally detach one of the heart-monitor wires and have to be hooked up again. Get up and pee. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. At one point I asked if I’d slept at all. The answer was “a little.” I did eventually sleep, but I doubt I got more than an hour’s total and by then it was way too late to experiment with the CPAP. I don’t even know if I stopped breathing at any time during the session. By the time the technologist got me up at 5 AM to unhook everything and send me home, I wasn’t exactly at my best. I never thought to ask.
I went home and went back to bed. I didn’t sleep all that long, but I slept hard. It took me another week to get back to my normal restless sleep pattern—not great but at least familiar. Meanwhile, my hair was in terrible shape—lots of breaks and split ends—thanks to the gunk used to glue the wires in place on my head. Getting a comb through it brought back the not-so-good old days of teasing and hair spray. That, too, is finally back to normal, but somewhat the worse for wear.
So now it’s a little over three weeks later. I was hoping to be able to report on the results of my sleep study in this blog, but I haven’t heard anything yet. My husband, however, has reported more incidents of the stop-breathing thing.
Will I go return for another try if that’s what the report suggests? I’m not sure I will, although I’m game to experiment with the CPAP. To be honest, the best thing about the experience so far has been the response to posting about it on Facebook. Who knew so many people would kill for a good night’s sleep?
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Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com