(Part I and II).
A few weeks after the overnight sleep study, I returned to the sleep specialist for a diagnosis.
He was a young Asian man with an expensive and modern grey suit, a tasteful wedding band on a manicured finger, and a habit of shaking hands and telling you to call him by his first name. This appeared to be a technique for getting me to feel at ease, to make me feel that he was paying special attention to me and my case.
Yeah, I felt a little like Philip Marlowe, walking into that place.
Once we sat down, Frank pulled out the three sheets of data collated from my sleep study and started taking me through the various sections. Skip the next paragraph if numbers and details make your eyes glaze over.
From a total of 6 hours, I slept 4.7, with frequent arousals, 34 of which were associated with respiratory events. These little lapses are known as hypopneas, which simply means shallow breathing. None of them lasted for more than 30 seconds, and my oxygen levels never dropped below 90%. My brain activity was high throughout the night and my deepest stages of sleep, including dreamtime or REM sleep, were all below par, but still present. Overall, sleep efficiency was down to 78.1%, but maintenance was at a nice and safe 96.1%.
Diagnosis: mild obstructive sleep apnea.
What does this mean? Well, since my sleep for the night was always bound to be worse than normal, the doctor's opinion was that there wasn't much wrong with me. Nothing that losing 10% of my body weight wouldn't fix. He also gave me a nasal spray to try and lessen the shallow breathing. After nutting out some of these details, I asked the doctor for a copy of all the data.
This took a total of ten minutes and a cost of $100. The doctor also said that there was no need for me to visit him again.
I walked out of the doctor's office into the tepid air of the city of Sydney and breathed in the morning pollution. A wave of anger, frustration, and helplessness swept through me. After all that, I still slept like crap and that doctor didn't give a rat's arse if I did or didn't. My oxygen levels were fine and that was all that mattered to him. This sleep problem was my fault, because I'd allowed myself to put on some kilos. My fault because I had bad sleep habits and hadn't put enough effort into setting up a good sleep environment.
My fault because I thought too much.
Not being one to hold a grudge or indulge in excess bitterness (and also never blog about it), I let this feeling swoop through me and move away. There was good news here. I didn't have a serious problem in the shape of life-threatening sleep apnea. I didn't have to spend a grand or so on a bedside air pump and mask. All I had to do was lose some weight, try out this nasal spray for a month, take up some more regular exercise, and see what I could do about my sleep habits and environment.
I won't lie, my sleep problems have affected my relationship, but after telling this news to Mary, I found that she was right on top of things, and that means the world to me. She suggested I try walking with her in the evenings or taking up yoga. She said let's get a new bed, one that will move less. And avoid caffeine, eat better, etc.
Thanks for being there, babe.
So now I've booked into a beginner's course in yoga, at the same place that Mary frequents. We've checked out some futons and have almost settled on one. I've taken the nasal spray as directed for a few nights now and I find myself sneezing or having what I call 'throat hiccups' much less as I fall asleep. I'm trying to develop a better wind down routine before bed, including a cut-off hour for computer related activities (sorry, Mr. Xbox).
I'm not totally convinced that doing all this is going to help. The issue of brain activity is still there, and I'm wondering if there's a touch of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome going on. But I'm on the case, I've narrowed down some areas to attack, and I'm looking forward to having more energy during the day.
We'll see how it goes.