Trouble sleeping? Me, too. Only your trouble is probably caused by my snoring. My wife's trouble certainly is.
I tend to sleep and snore in Myrtle Beach. A city that implicitly allows spontaneous firework displays on the beach at all hours certainly isn't going to crack down on low, rhythmic rumbling.
Of course, I've had trouble falling asleep occasionally throughout my life. Just like everyone else, I have been, from time to time, too excited or stressed or anxious to fall asleep.
Now, however, I am having trouble staying asleep -- and not even remembering it the next morning.
So, some poor soul got the chance to watch me sleep.
I had been exhausted throughout the late summer and fall. I figured I was just getting old. Or maybe I had a serious illness.
My doctor suspected something else. He sent me home with a wristband attached to a pulse oximeter, part of which covered my pointer finger. Somehow, this device detected how many "sleep disruptions" I had in one night.
While I slept 6.1 hours, the pulse oximeter recorded 248 sleep disruptions. My wife was not surprised.
The doctor felt this could be a problem. He ordered a sleep study at Palmetto Sleep Lab.
I genuinely think highly of the staff at Palmetto Sleep Lab. I have only good things to say about the facility and the people who work there.
However, as I think anyone would admit, a sleep study is not a typical experience.
To prepare me for the first sleep study, the technician attached sensors to my scalp, face, neck, chest, gut, and legs.
While this happened, I was sitting in a chair in one of the lab's bedrooms. A wall-mounted television set was on, but the technician and I were making small talk.
She gathered up the wires coming off me and plugged them into a box with a wide belt around one end. This way, I could put the belt over my head -- like a necklace far crazier than anything Flavor Flav ever wore -- and make my way to the restroom.
My bedtime was fairly simple. I took off the box necklace. I got in bed. The technician plugged the box into something-or-another and placed a pulse oximeter on my finger. She then left me the television remote control, wished me a good night's rest, turned off the light and shut the door.
But in a sense, she stayed with me, and not in spirit. To the right of the television set, I could see a camera and some other equipment. The technician could watch me and listen to me all night. For that matter, she could watch my heart rate, breathing, and brain waves, too.
Earlier that day, I had cut off the coffee around noon -- much earlier for me than usual. I had also avoided spontaneous naps, barely. I spent the day in exhaustion, anticipating an irresistible fall into sleep once I got to the lab.
I wasn't really confident my sleeping would be easily managed. When I was young, I would sleep-walk. I also spoke in my sleep, and I bet I still do now. I snore. I would not be surprised if I farted in my sleep with some regularity.
All this is OK -- except when you think about how someone you don't really know might hear you say something embarrassing or hear you break wind during the night.
Anticipating an irresistible fall into sleep, I couldn't fall asleep in the sleep lab.
I watched TV. I turned it off. I almost fell asleep. I woke up. I couldn't get upbeat songs by The Hold Steady out of my head. I turned the TV back on. After a while, I turned it off. More of The Hold Steady played in my mind's ears. I called for a bathroom break around 3:30 a.m.
While I'm thinking about this, I'm recalling some YouTube videos in which hypnotists make people fall asleep with a quick jerk of an arm and a command: "SLEEP!" I'm going to try this on my 10-year-old, who can be quite difficult to put to bed. I should have hired a hypnotist for my night in the sleep lab.
Eventually, the technician said, she recorded a little more than an hour of sleep. That was after she woke me at the usual check-out time, 5:30 a.m. I went straight home, snuggled up to my wife, and slept another hour.
A few days later, I got a phone call from the doctor who analyzed my results, and he said I have "severe apnea." My wife was not surprised.
I went back to the sleep lab, this time to sleep with a mask -- and this time, I had a better night's rest, thanks to Advil PM.
-Colin Foote Burch