Canada

Drastic measures for a good night’s sleep

I recently took part in an overnight polysomnography test, also also known as a sleep study, to figure out why I have such bad insomnia.

I’m not the only one suffering this problem. The National Library of Medicine reports that sleep disorders affect 40% of Canadians, with the main culprit being insomnia. And yes, sleeping issues can pose serious health risks.
Ontario has the highest numbers, and the recent pandemic is disrupting sleeping habits across Canada at an alarming rate.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a sleep study records your brain waves and the oxygen level in your blood, as well as your heart rate and breathing, along with eye and leg movements. It records with razor-sharp accuracy how many times you stop breathing as you sleep.Technologists monitor you throughout the night.

The Government of Canada website (Canada.ca), reports one in four of us are not getting enough sleep. And it’s not just getting to sleep, but staying asleep, and waking up refreshed. Lack of sleep causes chronic stress, poor mental health and can contribute to a wide variety of medical issues, including obesity. Research shows a lack of sleep may also make you feel hungrier than you really are and more likely to reach for fattening, sugary treats. According to bodyandhealth.canada.com, a research study at the University of Chicago saw participants suffer a spike in their bodies’ levels of ghrelin, a hunger-inducing hormone when they didn’t get enough sleep. Not only did test subjects feel hungrier, they also craved sweets. Sleep disorders can affect every age group, with middle-aged women suffering some of the highest rates.

One way of getting to the bottom of things is with a sleep study, where a proper diagnosis can then be made.

Now, unless I’m staying at a five-star hotel, I normally don’t like to sleep anywhere else except my own bed. But, sleep has become a precious commodity for me, (and for thousands of others) so, at the advice of my family doctor, the good Dr. B. Gosevitz who has a kindly, old-world charm when taking care of his patients, I packed an overnight bag and showed up at the local hospital where sleep studies are done on a regular basis.

Quite frankly, the experience was fascinating, in a mad scientist sort of way. I was told to change into my PJs (the one emblazoned with I Don’t Do Mornings on the front) and waited for a technician to process me. While I waited, I checked out my room, which had two beds and a full bathroom with a shower. It was neat, a touch sterile and not very cozy. Sleep here? Perhaps, but when I saw all the gadgetry that was going to be connected to me for the test, I resigned myself to being up all night.

The technician was lovely but thorough as she hooked up what felt like hundreds (a couple of dozen actually) electrodes to my head, face, chest and legs. Lots of glue and then surgical tape to make sure everything stuck. A tube was taped underneath my nostrils to measure oxygen. I then had two comfortable belts wrapped around my chest and waist. Bunny slippers in place, I shuffled awkwardly back to the room, where I took a peak at myself in the bathroom mirror and realized I could have been an extra in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was then tucked into bed and attached to even more instruments connected to the wall, plus a clip on my finger.

Once in bed I went through a series of exercises (open your eyes, close your eyes, breath through your nose, breath through your mouth and on and on.) I was told the electrodes were well secured so I could sleep on my back or sides, but I felt awkward and terrified I would disconnect everything if I moved around too much.

And then I asked the most important question of the night: “What if I have to go pee?” “Don’t worry,” assured my technician. “Just call me and I’ll disconnect you.”

It was past midnight when I tried to fall asleep – I didn’t think I could. But at one point I was dreaming I was dialing an old-fashioned rotary phone to connect with the technician. I kept tossing and turning, and jiggling my foot – I was cold, the bed was uncomfortable (it was an old hospital bed), and yes… I had to go to the bathroom. Badly.

I finally caved in and called for help. The technician quickly came to disconnect me so I could go to the bathroom, and, when I returned, she covered me with two extra blankets. I then actually fell into a deep sleep.

By 6:30 a.m., it was over. I was wide-awake and, in a weird way, happy, like I had run a marathon. My kind technician (who had been watching over me all night) removed all the electrodes, asked if I wanted to shower there or home (home!), told me to fill out one last form and reminded me to wear my mask when I left.

I walked out into the early morning warmth, my hair a hilarious mess, glue everywhere, and headed home to a hot shower and coffee.

It felted like the weirdest dream ever.

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