Daily Archives: January 12, 2009

Sleep Study: Part II. The Month Before Admission

This is a continuation of the detailed recollection of the sleep study I participated in for $5,000.  If you want to read it from the beginning, start here.

The month before going into the sleep study was almost more difficult than the sleep study itself.  I had to wear the awful actiwatch, which was ugly and uncomfortable.  I was only allowed to take it off when I was in the shower, even while sleeping.  The watch monitored my movement, and Jane told me that if I was ever sitting still that I had to jiggle my wrist, so that the watch wouldn’t think I was sleeping.   I was worried that after the study I would have developed a tick where I would jiggle my wrist every time I read a book, but that hasn’t happened.

Calling into Jane’s voice mail was a trial as well.  It was surprisingly easy to remember to do it, but it always felt silly.  Particularly if I was spending the night with someone; having to wake up and before I can even brush my teeth, place a call to some woman in Boston was always jarring.

The worst part about the watch, however, was that it somehow seemed to call out to random people.  My boss, my dental hygienist, a stranger in a cafe, all of these people felt it appropriate to ask me about the strange box-watchy thing on my wrist.  It was difficult to explain it all to my boss, as I hadn’t yet given my 2 weeks notice.

This was one of the most frustrating aspects of the sleep study: Jane could not tell me I was definitely accepted into the study until only a few days before I was admitted. So it took some courage to give my 2 weeks notice.

My dental hygienist was the worst.  She lost it when I told her what I was doing.  She insisted on repeating over and over again about how crazy it was, how she thought I was going to go crazy and how she thought she wasn’t crazy enough to even consider doing something like that.  All I could do was lie there, mouth open, and try to focus on the puppy poster on the ceiling rather than listen to her.

I also had to be sure to keep my sleep under 7 hours.  I do usually sleep about 6.5 hours, or so I thought.  I knew that if I had too many sleep log entries that were longer than 7 hours I would be disqualified.  I have a suspicion that my sleep patterns were more varied than I thought, as I found myself often struggling to stay awake at night so that I could sleep in a little in the morning.

After two weeks of keeping the sleep log, I faxed it back to Jane in Boston.  Later that day she called me and assigned me my average “sleep and wake” time.  First I was given 7:30am as a wake time and 1:20am as a sleep time.  A week after they readjusted it to 7:27am and 1:19am.  This was not fun.  If I went to bed at 1:19am and it took me 2 hours to fall asleep, then I would still have to wake up when my alarm went off at 7:27.

Lastly, one week before I was admitted, I made another trip to Boston.  First I met with the two project leaders, both MDs who interviewed me and made sure I really, actually wanted to do this.  They explained that because it is such a long and expensive process (over $1million to study just me) they wanted to make sure that I was going to allow them to gather the data they needed.  I put on my personality I got while working at the admission office at my college.  There’s nothing like giving 100+ campus tours to perfect one’s ability to act enthusiastic about something that you only partially want.

That night I spent in a sleep laboratory in beautiful Medford, MA.  This was a place where typically people with sleep apnea or particularly annoying snoring go to get treatment.  The doctors, almost exclusively young women with short hair for some reason, seemed confused about why I was there.  I explained the study to about 8 different people over the course of my time there.  They even showed me a video on sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

The room that I slept in was like a very nice hotel that had been shrunken down to the minimum required floor space.  The bed was large and luxurious, but the walls were claustrophobic.  There was a small TV in the corner, and even a boring pastel painting of a bicycle by sand dunes like you might see in any Red Roof Inn.  It would have still been a pleasant night except that it was the first time I ever tried to sleep with electrodes all over my body.  Far from the last, however.  They also had something called a “nose probe” in me all night, which was worse than the anal probe yet to come.

The next day they served me apple juice and offered me coffee, which I sadly had to turn down.  I stumbled around Medford for a while, trying to find my way back to Boston.  I ended up walking about a mile in the wrong direction, but I did find a deliciously greasy little diner called Kelly’s.  I recommend it, especially if you have spent the night at a sleep lab.  I met with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gomez I’ll call him for these purposes, who spent an hour with me going over the psychological duress I might go through and assessing whether or not he thought I was capable of not going ape wild.  He talked to me about the darkness of the room during “sleep periods”, boredom and loneliness.  Apparently he decided I was particularly good at being bored, lonely and in the dark because I got the call 2 days before I had to show up in Boston that I was clear to come.

Packing for the experience was an arduous experience.  I ended up filling 2 giant suitcases. One was filled with books, DVDs, CDs, art supplies, toys and pictures.  The other had just clothing, and enough space to fit in things my friends were loaning me.  My last day of freedom was gray and rainy, and I spent most of it lugging my suitcase from one friend’s apartment to another, collecting anything I thought I might need.  I also ate chicken wings for the first time in a year and a half, because why not?  After that slightly sickening meal, I hopped in a cab to meet up with Jane at her office and head to the hospital.

Coming Up Next:  Let The Sleep Study Begin