Saturday, February 22, 2014


I haven’t been sleeping well.  This has been going on for a little while now – about twenty years.  As a result I sometimes doze off during the day, at meetings and at social events.  In fact, at parties my friends take bets on what time I’m gonna doze off.  The winner gets to draw on my face first.

So my doctor recommended a sleep study.  I had to keep a sleep journal for two weeks beforehand, each day documenting what time I went to sleep, how long I slept, any alcohol or caffeine I consumed, what drugs I took, who I slept with, the barometric pressure of my room, and what kind of pajamas I wore (Spiderman).  Eventually I noticed a pattern: I go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning.  Weird, huh?  The only problem is that I wake up at the same time I used to go to sleep in college.  Imagine sharing a bed with someone who gets up that early.  If I were married to an Amish woman she’d divorce me.

They started the sleep study by hooking electrodes to my face, scalp, chest and shins with a sticky white paste, plus they put hoses up my nose, and then they expected me to sleep.

I lay in bed for a good (actually not so good) hour or so, trying to fall asleep while I was more wired than a meth addict.  A few trips to the bathroom later I managed to get unconscious around midnight without the aid of beer.

After about three hours I woke up, which is very typical of me (and one of the reasons I endured the sleep study to begin with).  I hit the call button for the sleep technician, who disconnected the wires and hoses from the machine so I could go pee.  You haven’t lived until you’ve held eighteen miles of wire while aiming at a toilet bowl at 3 a.m.

When I returned she plugged me in again.  I lay in bed for a while and eventually fell asleep for a little while and did some dreaming.  I forget what I dreamt about, but I remember something about a national healthcare scheme that not only didn’t work, but actually caused some people’s health premiums to go up.  Thank God that didn’t really happen.

At about 5:30 the tech announced, “Good morning, Mr. Schwalb” over the speaker, which didn’t wake me because I had already been awake for an hour and a half.  She removed the hoses and tore the electrodes off my shins.  To say that this felt like a Band-Aid being removed would be like saying that Bill O’Reilly is a little bit conservative.

The rest of the wires were still attached to me, and they were plugged into a little blue box that hung from my neck like pimp bling.  Why were they still attached?  Because the study wasn’t over.  They wanted to keep me all day for a nap study.  This sort of activity involves sitting around reading, eating, pooping, watching television, and napping, which pretty much describes a typical Sunday for me, minus the hangover.  Every two hours they give the patient an opportunity to nap.  If he or she dozes off within twenty minutes, they let him or her sleep for fifteen minutes.

The first thing I did was have breakfast, which my insurance company gets billed for, so you know I took advantage of that.  I had some orange juice, a few granola bars, and a Rice Krispies knockoff called Rice Crunchins, which were square and did not go “snap, crackle, pop.”  My usual breakfast cereal is Raisin Bran, which cleans me out like Drano.  That cereal’s slogan should be “snap, crackle, poop.”

I brushed and flossed in order to get the sugar out of my teeth.  Which reminds me: why do some folks brush their teeth in the morning and then eat?  Doesn’t that undo the cleaning they just did?  It’s like wiping and then taking a dump.

After a bit of texting, e-mail, and seeing what derisive comments people had made about me on Facebook, I was informed that they would not do a nap study because I had only slept 3.5 hours during the night.  Well, I had already told them that I only sleep 3 to 5 hours per night.  It was right there in my sleep log.  A nap study is supposed to find things like narcolepsy and hypersomnia, but with so little nighttime sleep, dozing off during the day is expected and not necessarily an indication of a deeper problem.  Well, duh.

So the sleep tech ripped the rest of the electrodes off, causing blinding pain and leaving white goopy stuff in my hair and on my face.  I felt like I had just been in a porn film.

Now it’s up to my doctor to determine why I don’t sleep well at night.  They told me that it will take a week.  In the meantime I’ll keep nodding off at social events, and my friends will be there to support me, Sharpies in hand.