Sleep study

It was a little before 9 when I arrived at the Children’s Medical Center, signed in, and rode the elevator up to the fourth floor. I’d been told to use the phone in the lobby to tell someone I was there, but a man was already guiding a boy and his mother back to the sleep study area, so he let me in too. We walked past a nursing station and down a long hallway, then turned into another hallway. The man took the boy and his mother into the first door on the left, and told me to wait by the blue chairs up ahead for someone named Chris.

I had barely arrived at the chairs when a man came out of a room across the hall. “Are you Chris?” I asked.


“I’m Heather.”

I’m so much more outgoing than I used to be. It still surprises me.

He stopped at a closet to pick up some clean linens for my room and then guided me back to where I was to spend the night. “This is like a dorm room,” I said, because it was. It was about like the hospital rooms I lived in at Markey Cancer Center, only it was bigger and felt like it was trying to be hip. There was a closet door that was completely covered by a markerboard, for example, and a long couch under what looked like a giant window shade. I assumed there was a window behind it, but that might not actually have been the case.

After I filled out a sleep survey, I let Chris know how tired I was and he said I could go ahead and change and he’d get me wired up. I put on my T-shirt and shorts and took my evening meds, but I forgot to brush my teeth, which would annoy me quite a bit later as I was trying to sleep.

I sat in a chair and watched an episode of Family Guy as Chris wired me up. I had countless wires coming off my head and face, then two on my chest and two on each leg. There was also a thin wire under my nose to detect my breathing and a wire against my throat to record snoring. Chris put a big hairnet on me to hold the wires in place on my head. Once I got into bed, he put one of those clips on my finger as well, to detect oxygen levels or something.

I had to start out on my back. The room was totally dark, but there was an intercom so Chris could hear me and a video camera recording everything I did. We had to calibrate before I could go to sleep; Chris told me over the intercom to hold my eyes open and stare straight ahead, close them and stare straight ahead, look side to side and up and down, hold my breath, breathe normally, and move my feet. After that I was supposed to go to sleep, but I was a little too excited to calm down right away. I thought that the whole experience was really neat and I was anticipating falling asleep, which makes no sense. Eventually I was able to sleep, fortunately.

About every hour and a half or so I would wake up having to go to the bathroom, and at the same time I would get severe leg cramps. I’d have to call Chris to come in and unplug me so I could stand up, use the facilities, and pace around to get my muscles to stop clenching. It wasn’t particularly restful. Mom says the cramps might have been exacerbated by how cold it was in the room; it was pretty freaking cold. Regardless, it wasn’t particularly pleasant. Plus, with all the wires on it was difficult to shift my sleeping position from back to side, so that was annoying.

Chris was fun though; he had lots of good stories and jokes and was just interesting in general. I guess you have to be to work in a sleep center, which is a weird and kind of spooky place.

The fourth time I woke up, Chris told me it was about one minute to 6 and we could just calibrate again and then I could be done. This was a relief, but it still took forever to calm my muscles down. Finally we finished up, and he pulled all the wires off and tried to clean the gunk away with some wipes–the gunk was like white oobleck, if you ever created that stuff in middle school. Then I changed into my long pants and cleaned up as best I could and brushed my teeth and took my morning pills, and I was out of there.

On the drive home I thought about being considerate and picking up some McDonald’s for Mom and Sean, but ultimately I decided to just go home and go to bed, and that’s what I did. I had a little cramping, but nothing too serious, and I was able to sleep until around 10:30 (although I think I did go to the bathroom somewhere in the middle).

It was an interesting experience, to be sure. I’d like to know what all they learned about my sleeping patterns, if anything. Hopefully the frequent bathroom breaks and cramping didn’t affect the results too much.

We should have the results in a few weeks.