Alan Muskovitz’ harrowing experiences at a (no) sleep clinic to determine if he has sleep apnea, gone horribly wrong.
I recently underwent a sleep study to determine if I have sleep apnea. A little disclaimer before I go on. Despite what I’m about to describe, I’m a big proponent of sleep studies, and I’ve spoken with people who have benefited from the positive impact the results can have on one’s health. So, don’t let anything I say here discourage you from having one. But let me be very clear, the sleep study process is equal part medical and comical.
Turns out I can fall asleep anywhere — except a sleep clinic. For me anyway, it was a “no sleep clinic.” I don’t think I had a full hour of deep sleep. You are electrically wired from head to toe and points in between. Picture me as Peter Boyle strapped down as the monster in Mel Brooks’ film Young Frankenstein. The only thing missing was Gene Wilder in his laboratory yelling, “It’s alive; it’s alive!”
My trying to fall asleep was not made any easier by the fact that my sleep technician, who I believe may have quit her job after my study, refused to read to me Goodnight Moon. Instead, she just let me cry myself to sleep. I’m surprised she didn’t cry after spending hours staring at a monitor watching me toss and turn and snore.
To add to the frustration, just as I was about to fall asleep … I had to go the bathroom. And you can’t go unattended. You have to be “unplugged.” I haven’t yelled, “I have to go to the bathroom” in the middle of the night to anyone since 1959. My tech could hear me from her post on a live microphone. I’m just glad I didn’t yell “Mommy.” I lay there waiting, wired up, fearing she wouldn’t arrive in time and I’d be electrocuted.
Fast forward to my follow-up results appointment. It revealed that I was on the upper end of a “mild” case; if you can believe that stopping breathing 15 times in an hour is mild. I was informed that I would need another sleep study, this time to see how I would do on a CPAP machine.
The next available slot they had open was in a month. A month?! Based on the fact I stop breathing as many as 15 times an hour, that meant, based conservatively on six hours a night of sleep over the next month, I will have stopped breathing 2,700 times before my next appointment! Now that’s something to lose sleep over. But I made it.
During my second “no sleep study,” I was given a chance to experiment with a variety of CPAP breathing apparatus. Nothing provides you a more restful night’s sleep than waking up every hour or so to try on a new mask. My least favorite? The full face mask. It not only made me look like Darth Vader, but the soft whir of air coming from the machine made me sound like him, too. Plus, it interfered with me trying to suck my thumb.
As you read this, I will have completed my third week on a home CPAP machine. It’s still a work in progress and I’m still going through my “Goldilocks” phase of finding the CPAP mask that feels just right. The good news is a chip in the machine allows me to get a daily computer read out of my results. I’m happy to report I’ve had some nights with as few as three apnea episodes.
The biggest challenge is my routine 3:30 a.m. bathroom run. I have to detach my mask from the large tube connected to the CPAP machine that provides the air flow to keep my air passage open during sleep. As you can see from the photo, it leaves a shorter tube dangling from my nose, leaving me looking and feeling like a baby elephant although it does come in handy when getting a drink of water in the middle of the night.
For me, adapting to CPAP treatment is a marathon, not a sprint. And who knows, perhaps after enough treatment I might even be able to run a marathon or sprint. But don’t hold your breath … at least while you’re sleeping.
Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, and emcee. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com. If you have a humorous sleep study/apnea related story, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he just might share it in a follow-up column.