Monday, January 14, 2008

The Saga Of Sleep: Part III

(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.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

Yoga? Health? No caffeine? And you call yourself a writer? Next thing you're gonna say you've stopped drinking.

Get some Provigil and never have to sleep again.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Nope, still having water. Makes the MDMA go down smooth. Especially if I add scotch. Lots of scotch.

Me said...

Hi Dan

All I can say is that I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from because that is EXACTLY what happened to me !!!!!!!!

I paid a lot of money for the dr to basically tell me that there was nothing wrong with my sleep patterns and it was all my own fault that I wasn't sleeping.

Being an old guy (about 100 yrs old in the shade) he didn't actually mention anything about the fact that I was over-weight - maybe he thought I would deck him.

While on the one hand it was good to know that there was nothing wrong with me, it was so frustrating to not be able to find the reason for my sleep problems.

Good luck with the yoga - hope that it helps you.


Linda L. Richards said...

"My fault because I thought too much."

Now cut that out!

I jest but I know that my own -- ahem -- troubled sleep is sometimes because I think too much. And I've often wondered: is that a skill that others have that I do not? That ability to just turn off when you're meant to. Something learned, perhaps in childhood? Some day I missed in school?

You'll have to keep us posted, Daniel. If it works for you...

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm reading this the morning after being up half the night... the first part working, the second part with a toddler who has discovered that 3am is his favorite play time. Think you can send some of that nasal spray Stateside?

Sounds like you and Mary have things well in hand. Best of luck to you - please let us know how it goes.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Me/Linda: I remember when you told Mary about your experiences, and I feared it would go the same way for me. And I guess it did. I'm trying to look at it like this: at least I've narrowed down the causes.

Linda R: And this relates to the above, this thinking too much thing. I don't believe that we had to learn this as a child, I think it's more a combination of genetics and training at any point in our life. I know that monks who have meditated for 20 years have wildly different levels of activity in various areas of the brain. The mind is a malleable thing and can be bent into shape. With training, or with a hammer.

And that bit you quoted, I was being bitter and sarcastic towards the doctor. Of course I don't believe it's my fault. :)

Christa, I'm pretty sure you can get the stuff from any doctor if you tell them you have hayfever.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good luck, Daniel. As a fellow insomniac, I was hoping for some real suggestions. When we drive into their car because we're so tired, maybe they'll take it seriously.

rand(om) bites said...

So yoga - tick. Walking, bed and diet - next! Did you ride today? 30 days to change and form a new habit and all that :-)