The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Wired for sleep

“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,”

“Nothing obvious?”

“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.


Mary Witzl said...

You had to drive all the way to Edinburgh to have that done? What a bummer! Wish we were still in Scotland so at least you could have dropped by after your ordeal for some strong coffee!

When my good man had his study done, he only had to drive a short distance to Dumfries. Maybe they've stopped doing it there, though.

My insomnia has cleared up a lot here, but I can't recommend the treatment I've been enduring. Who wants to teach obnoxious kids all day just for a little shut-eye?

Kim Ayres said...

As I was driving home, Mary, I stopped in Moffat for a coffee, wishing you were about to call in on. I tried phoning Eryl but there was no answer so I guessed she was at Uni.

Apparently Dumfries only deals with sleep apnea, not other potential sleep related problems.

savannah said...

is there any possibility that they might have an answer sooner than 4 months? at least there is the hope that there is an answer as to why you're sleeping so poorly and a solution! i'm keeping good thoughts for you, sugarpie! xoxox

Eryl Shields said...

Oh no, you tried to phone me but I didn't answer! I feel terrible, bugger, bugger, and bugger. Next time I'll be right here, promise. Let me know in advance and I'll take the day off and bake something.

Kanani said...

That's a long way to go not to sleep!
What an ordeal, truly. I wouldn't have been able to sleep because of the stress of it all.

Conan Drumm said...

How the hell are they going to measure your usual, problematic sleep patterns in that sort of set up? Have they not got wireless sensors* yet?

*Get together with some boffin (Maroon?) and invent these, a small % royalty for me will do!

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - Things seem to move so slowly. I realised it's now a year since I first saw the CFS "Specialist" who was a waste of time.

Eryl - for goodness sake wummun, don't be a guilt sponge - I gave you no warning and you shouldn't be missing days of your course just so I can drop in for a coffee! However, next time I will plan in advance :)

Kanani - until the sadistic nurse of the morning, it wasn't particularly stressful, but I was surprised I got as much sleep as I did

Conan - maybe they have problems with wireless stuff. I mean, mobile phones have to be switched off in case they interfere with anything. Or maybe it's just so you can't call out for help...

Jupiter's Girl said...

That's a big bummer that the medical system isn't helping you, but it is funny to read your accountings of their attempts. For all their probing of the symptoms, you'd think it might add up to some understanding of what to do to alleviate them. Too bad.

I am sure you've tried meditative techniques, right? Let me know if you want some simple ones that I know of that have helped me and my children.
This is the main one: Breathe deep and slowly and on the exhale tell yourself, "my mind is now relaxed." Breathe deeply and slowly again and on the exhale, "my body is now relaxed." And again, breathe slow and deep, "I let go of everything." Repeat. You have to tell your mind that you'll think of those things later - when you wake up rested. That mind will mess with you and make you think you are suffering, have suffered immensely, or will suffer in the future. That's it's job, I think.

Andraste said...

Four Months Later: "We have determined that your sleep problem has to do with being attached to electrodes and attempting sleep in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, clinical environment."

karatemom said...

well there it was the good sleep apnea...I gather you go on the long list because nothing "life-threatening" showed in your 12 hours there .

Many people have sleep apnea where they literally stop breathing, others have night terrors or walk in their sleep and dont know that these are the reasons they havent felt rested in the morning.

I get a kick out of your dreams but not much different from some that I have been known to have.

I hope they are able to find somethings for you sooner than later though to help ease your consience.and give you some direction in solving things.


Pat said...

Cripes Kim - I'm amazed you got any sleep with all that paraphanalia. Hairy sticky bits!" Ouch!
Nurses like that should be dealt with severely and I shudder that she may sometime nurse someone in pain.
I don't see how they can learn much from such abnormal circumstances.
The one comfort we always have is that we can write about it. Lets hope further investigation will be more helpful.

Kim Ayres said...

Jupiter's Girl - The letting go and relaxing the mind is something I've been developing over the past couple of years. I'm now pretty good at it. Unfortunately I never ever wake up feeling rested.

Andraste - I bet that one happens agreat deal :)

Karate Mom - Sleep apnea was one of the very first things suggested, but I very rarely snore and Maggie's never known me to stop breathing. I must admit, the idea of having to sleep with a face mask for the rest of my life has no appeal

Pat - writing about it is the only thing that keeps me even vaguely in the region of sanity :)

Unknown said...

Windows Internet Explorer
Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?

You have unsaved changes.

Press OK to continue, or Cancel to stay on the current page.
OK Cancel
So that is what I saved when I thought I was saving the comment I made. I am so techno challenged.

Anyway, I have always wanted to do a sleep study because I sleep so little but after reading your post I have revised my opinion.

My dad has narcolepsy and has selfishly kept all the sleeping genes to himself.

Archivalist said...

If I could share some of my sleep-anywhere-anytime gene with you, I would.

Kim Ayres said...

Ah, Carole, but your ability to post the unsaved changes message shows you have come far on your technological journey :)

Archivalist - it's rare that I ever really feel jealous of someone, but in this case...

Anonymous said...

Oh my...that's brutal. Four months?! Hopefully they'll have some answers for you.

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