Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sweet dreams are made of this

Last night, my bedroom activities were monitored by an unseen stranger.

I thought that would get your attention.

Alas, it wasn't as spicy as it sounds. The bedroom was located in a physician's office. The unseen stranger was a medical technologist. My activities consisted of nothing more than sleeping, with an assortment of data-gathering instrumentation attached to my body.

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I suffer from a sleep disorder. Specifically, I have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes me — due to a collapsing airway — to stop breathing when I fall asleep. Left to my own devices, I experience hundreds of momentary airflow interruptions during an average night, resulting in extreme fatigue (not to mention sleepiness, muddled cognitive function, and symptoms of depression) during my waking hours. To prevent this untoward battery of complaints, I spend my nighttimes hooked up to a continuous positive air pressure device (called a CPAP — say it "see-pap"); essentially, an automated pump that blows air down my throat to keep my windpipe open while I sleep.

I haven't had a thorough evaluation of my apnea since I was first diagnosed about seven years ago. Thus, I was long overdue for a new sleep study. As it happens, I recently wrote a new set of informational and marketing materials for a local sleep medicine clinic, and was quite impressed with their approach to patient care. So I scheduled an appointment.

Having been through two sleep studies previously, and having taken the grand tour of the sleep nedicine clinic while on assignment, I knew pretty well what to expect. I arrived at the office at 10 p.m., where I was met by the medical technologist who would conduct my study. As I sat in a chair very much like those in a barbershop — minus the accompaniment of a singing quartet — the technologist glued a series of sensory electrodes to my face and body. By the time she was finished, I felt as through I was about to be plugged into the Matrix. (Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.)

The technologist then escorted me to one of six bedrooms. (This may be one of the few occasions when one can use the words "escorted" and "bedroom" in the same sentence, and not need a shower or a shot of penicillin afterward.) My various dangling electrical wires were connected to the monitoring equipment, and I trundled off to Sandman City under the watchful eye of a video camera. (Somehow, I doubt the video record of my snooze will generate the same public enthusiasm as, say, the Paris Hilton tape.)

For the most part, the night proved uneventful. After monitoring a couple of hours of my untreated sleep state, the technologist came in and connected me to a CPAP for the balance of the study. The only other time I recall awakening, a cramp in my left... umm... hip muscle — no doubt brought on by lying in the same position for longer than normal — jolted me from slumber. At about 6:30 a.m., the technologist concluded the study, disassembled my Frankensteinian jumble of electrical gadgetry, and sent me on my way.

Sleep apnea is much more common than most people realize. The majority of sufferers don't even know they have a treatable medical condition. Even worse, most don't recognize how potentially hazardous sleep apnea can be. (If you're male, overweight, and experience daytime sleepiness and/or nighttime snoring or restless sleep, do yourself a colossal favor and take this sleep apnea self-assessment quiz. You'll be glad you did.)

The danger was hammered home to me once again last December, when former NFL superstar Reggie White died of cardiac arrest. According to numerous published reports, White's coronary condition may have been exacerbated by untreated sleep apnea.

Reggie White and I were born on the same day.

Yeah, I'd say that's a wakeup call.

3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger landileigh offered these pearls of wisdom...

hey michael!

i suffer from sleep apnea also! i have been on a CPAP for the last 2 years. the BEST sleep i'd had in 10 years previously! glad to know you are one of those that are being treated!


2:08 PM  
Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

Sleep apnea always sounded like such a scary condition. Scary in a completely different way that sleeping next to someone who just plain ol snores that is.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Sam offered these pearls of wisdom...

I've also suffered from S. A. myself, along with the other stuff, as you know. It's not that easy having to sleep with a CPAP, nor is it easy to sleep next to someone while wearing it (if that makes you feel any better, Janet). I just hope that things go well Micheal, and you get all the support you deserve on this.

9:41 AM  

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