This node is something I hope will be helpful and maybe change a few lives out there (for the better) in nodeland. This past Friday night I went to the Barnes-Jewish hospital in St. Peters, Missouri for a sleep study. For those of you who've never had one, or heard of one, it is when you spend the night (or sometimes day) at a hospital sleeping while hooked to electrodes that measure anything from your breathing and heart rate to your brainwaves. You are also often monitored via a video camera in the room, as was the case in my sleep study.

So Why Do A Sleep Study?

The point of a sleep study is to determine if you have any conditions like sleep apnea that negatively affect your sleep. There are a multitude of other sleeping problems that plague people but I won't get into them here for the sake of brevity.

My Sleep Study Experience

I went for my sleep study because I thought I might have sleep apnea, i.e. I thought my sleep was interrupted by constant instances where my breathing stopped or slowed during sleep. This causes you to either wake up or simply arouse enough to where you are no longer in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or dream sleep. Not getting enough REM sleep can make you a very sleepy person and eventually cause you to go insane and/or die.

Anyway, my wife and mother-in-law dropped me off, I changed into some comfortable pajamas I'd brought, and the nice technician working there that night came into my little "bedroom" and used a sticky substance to hook wires all over my head and face, and he stuck one to each of my legs. He also put two on my chest. After watching some TV, I decided to try to sleep. He came in, hooked all those wires in to where they started measuring things, and I relaxed, turned off the TV, and tried to sleep.

Granted, I was a tad nervous about the whole thing and it took me a while to actually get to sleep (it's not every day you try to go to sleep with wires hooked to you). But I eventually did get a visit from the Sandman. After a few hours of sleeping, the technician came in, woke me up and hooked me to a mask, something he'd said he would do if he noticed I was having apnea problems.

The mask was not an oxygen mask, this is a typical misconception. All it did was take air from the room and pressurize it on my nose to keep my airways open. I slept with the mask about five hours until he woke me up in the morning when the sleep study was complete.

The Eye Opener

In the morning, the tech showed me the computer readouts of my sleep. Amazingly, before he put the mask on me, I was getting arousals out of REM sleep 60 - 80 times an hour! A wire hooked to one of my fingers which measured the oxygen content in my blood showed that each of those times there was a significant drop in the amount of O2 in my blood. Whenever this happens your brain kind of wakes up a little and says "Hold on here, we need more oxygen!" Also, during that period, I was snoring heavily, something that has been very disruptive to my wife's sleep.

After showing me that readout, he showed me the readout of everything while I had the mask on. The difference was dramatic. I slept like a baby during that time with no disruptions. I got almost five hours of good sleep for the first time in a very, very long time. I felt more rested that morning than I'd felt in quite a while.

One interesting thing was my heart readout. During the time with the mask, my heart had a nice, slow, even rhythm, which is what it is supposed to have during sleep. During the disrupted sleep before the mask, my heart was going crazy, like my brainwaves. Most people don't realize this, but your heart needs to sleep, too! If it doesn't get the rest it needs, it gives you high blood pressure. You see, not getting good rest affects a myriad of things, not just how sleepy you are.

So Now What?

Now my options are either surgery to remove my tonsils and/or adenoids, and the uvula (punching bag in the back of your mouth), or get one of those masks. I haven't decided yet, but next Friday my doctor will get the results and issue a recommendation. If there's enough interest in this node, I'll post what I decided and how well it helped me.

Get Your Sleep Study

It amazes me to think about how many people are out there with this problem right now and aren't doing anything about it. It also amazes me to think about how long I had this problem without doing anything about it myself. I've known for quite some time there was a problem with my sleep. I always fell asleep during lectures in high school and in college and often got in trouble at work for dozing off in front of my computer. I wish I would have gotten this sleep study a long time ago. I never knew how simple it was to set it up. I always thought it would be real complicated and take a lot of time, or I was afraid my insurance wouldn't cover it, but all it took was a simple question to my doctor after a physical. I told him I might have sleeping problems and what I should do. He asked me if I wanted him to set up a sleep study for me and I agreed as long as my insurance covered it.

He had his assistants check with my insurance, and once it was OK'ed, they set up the appointment. It was that easy! And it was totally covered! I didn't pay a dime, not even a copay. So if you think you have sleeping problems like sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. Tell him or her you would like a sleep study, if they do not mention it. (Some doctors may just want to prescribe some drugs, as many doctors are wont to do, but that rant is for a different node). I just know that getting it was the right thing to do and that my life is going to change for the better! I cannot wait for the day when I am no longer sleepy all day and have to catch up on sleep on the weekends and sleep for 12 hours just to feel semi-rested.

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