“Would you like a cup of tea of coffee?”
“Won’t that affect the sleep study?”
“Not really, we only have decaffeinated here.”
The nurse returned with a cup of tea. Personally, I’ve never seen the point in decaffeinated coffee; to me it’s like non-alcoholic beer, Formula 1 races with no crashes, or having mutant genes but no superpowers.
“I’ll be back in 15 minutes to start putting the wires on, so you might want to finish up in the bathroom.”
I looked at the fresh cup of tea in my hand. “Um, 15 minutes isn’t going to be long enough for this to work its way through my system…”
“Don’t worry,” she replied, “if you need to go during the night, just buzz and a nurse will bring you a bottle to go in.”
I left the tea on the bedside cabinet, untouched.
Shortly thereafter I smelled like a vodka distillery as I was swabbed with surgical spirit before various sticky patches were placed over my body, face and head and attached to wires leading to a box full of little sockets. I had two straps placed around my torso, which looked very similar to ones I remember Maggie having to measure contractions; a plastic thimble with a wee red light was stuck on the end of my middle finger; and some kind of tube was placed around my face with 2 tiny offshoots sticking up my nostrils. Picking my nose was going to be tricky.
“Climb up onto the bed now please, Mr Ayres.”
“I guess it’s a bit late to say I’d rather sleep with my t-shirt on…”
I have to say, the idea of sleeping at all at the sleep clinic seemed rather optimistic. If I turned to my right, I had to pull the wires over with me; if I turned to the left, the bright green light on the box of sockets shone directly into my eyes; and if I lay on my back, I could feel the electrodes pushing into my skull.
Eventually I drifted off, waking periodically to shift position or try and scratch some itchy bit now inaccessible under a rubbery patch.
Then, suddenly, I was wide awake. I figured it must be close to 6.30am when I was due to be roused.
Then again, it might only be 5.30am.
After several attempts to read my watch by the wee red light on my middle finger, I gave up and rummaged in my bag for my battery alarm clock, which has it’s own light.
The next two hours lasted about 13 years and then I began to drift in and out dreams about being in car rolling backwards with no brakes, being back at school but without any trousers, and ET trying to phone home with a glowing red finger.
Just as I finally dropped into a deep sleep I was woken by a nurse telling me it was time to get up.
While the nurse from the night before had been generally chatty and good-natured, the one who ripped off the wires and patches with no mercy but plenty of my body hair, was clearly in a foul mood. The only thing I managed to tease from her was she was almost at the end of her shift and couldn’t wait to get away.
At breakfast one of the patients from another room complained long and loud about how a mask she’d been fitted with kept coming off every time she moved, and when it didn’t come off she couldn’t breathe, and how she’d spent the whole night continually calling a nurse to her room to rectify it.
I had no problems guessing which nurse had been “rectifying” all night.
Despite being the first to be unplugged, the first to turn up for breakfast, and the first to clean my teeth, I was the last to be seen by the doctor and wasn’t allowed to leave until I had done so.
She looked at the sleep diary I’d kept for the past 2 weeks then looked up at me with warm, sympathetic eyes. “Why are you sleeping so badly?”
“Um, I was kind of hoping you might be able to tell me…”
“Well I’m afraid there was nothing obvious from last night,”
“Well no one had to come in and resuscitate you at any point. So this means we’ll have to thoroughly analyse all the data and see if there’s anything hidden in there that might reveal something useful. It should take no longer than about 4…”
“Hours? Days? Weeks?”
At least it didn’t rain during the 100mile drive home from Edinburgh.