Fellow Trekkies will know exactly what I’m talking about here. Captain Jean-Luc Picard was the first Star Trek Captain to encounter The Borg; an organic/synthetic hybrid lifeform on the ultimate quest for perfection.
But what does this have to do with sleep??
I recently booked myself in for an ‘in-hospital’ sleep study and once they had stuck on all the sensors and wires, I could have been mistaken for a frigging Borg! Just to prove I’m not exaggerating, here’s a very #authenticselfie
I’ve been a rubbish sleeper all my life. Insomnia/can’t get to sleep/can’t stay asleep and restless leg are all my sleep-time friends. My mum (bless her) used to be an uber-morning person and therefore sleep was looked upon as an opportunity cost for the rest of the day. It was a tough way to grow up, but I am officially a morning person regardless of whether I’ve had 2 hours or 6 hours of sack time.
I’ve noticed that my poor sleep performance is getting worse as I get older. If I’m honest, I broke through a sleep glass ceiling when I became a mum. However, I’d be naïve if I solely blamed my sleep woes on motherhood.
I’ve recently written about my intentions for the year and this includes a deliberate step change in my overall mindset (check out the post here). After re-reading the post, I’ve noticed a glaring omission; I forgot to mention my commitment to conquer my sleep issues.
In some respects, this intention should have been at the top of my list. If I don’t allow my body to rest and recuperate how can I expect to have the right mindset to strive for what I want??
If I didn’t lose you at my mention of ‘Star Trek’ or ‘The Borg’, you might be thinking “why the hell is she rabbiting on about being a crappy sleeper??”
The answer is simple.
I’m sick to death of people wearing poor sleep and tiredness as a badge of honour.
I see it all over social media. Every. Single. Day.
Being tired is nothing to brag about and I’m ready to find a better way.
As I mentioned, my battle with sleep is nothing new. On and off, I’ve tried pills and potions, eliminations and apps (as per below).
I’ve dabbled with several brands of sleeping tablets with mixed success. I had the best success with Stilnox (the one that allegedly makes users a little loopy) but I never suffered any side effects. I refuse to take sleeping tablets since becoming a mum and I can’t afford to anyway when my husband is away from work #fifofamily.
I’ve had better success by addressing my sleep hygiene factors, but even then, results have been short lived.
By sleep hygiene, I’m referring to all the things we should be doing to maximise the chance of a good nights’ sleep. For example:
- Remove all devices that emit blue light from the bedroom i.e. no TV, clock radio, phones, tablets etc
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Establish a good pre-sleep routine that might include reading a book, journaling, meditation etc
- Don’t stay in bed if you’re awake for more than 20 minutes (get up and do something relaxing)
- Reduce your caffeine intake particularly after 3pm
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day (but avoid strenuous activities in the evening)
Apps & iPods
I’ve also tried my fair share of meditation tracks and more recently a popular sleep app called Sleep With Me. Someone tells you a boring and rambling bedtime story as you drift off to sleep. My problem was that the first episode I tried, I ended up listening intently for a good 45 minutes waiting for them to say ‘let’s begin’ or ‘here we go’…..not good for upholders like me. Suffice to say, I haven’t tried another episode.
Unfortunately, until now I’ve been looking for the silver (sleep) bullet i.e. leaving my phone in the kitchen will automatically lead to me having a perfectly restful sleep……erm…..no.
I had toyed with the idea of doing a sleep study for months and months. Unfortunately, when I raised the idea of doing a sleep study with those around me, I was commonly met with the following feedback:
Them: But do you snore??
Them:….so, do you think you have sleep apnoea??
Them: Well good luck getting a referral!
Me: Cheers (not)
Them: Really Brooke?? TUP!! You’ve got young kids – no parent has a good night’s sleep. Get over it!
Me: Cheers (not)
Long story short – I chose to ignore all the nay-sayers and booked in to see my GP to obtain the elusive referral.
In fairness, I’m not a textbook candidate for a sleep study. If you’re a middle-aged/obese male (who admits they snore) then you’ll be welcomed with open arms. I did need to state my case, but I got the paperwork and booked myself in (I had to wait about a month for a place).
There are 2 kinds of sleep studies: in-home and in-hospital each with their own pros and cons. I did an in-hospital study, but that’s only because that’s what my GP recommended. In 2012, my husband Marc (who does have mild sleep apnoea) did an in-home study through a private provider and I think that was just as good.
Now that I have experienced an in-hospital sleep study (and witnessed an in-home one for Marc) I honestly think they are about the same. Some might argue that you’ll get a better nights sleep in your own bed, but with wires/sensors and tubes it’ll be a pretty crappy night’s sleep regardless of where you rest your head.
The good news is there was no preparation required – no pre-reading, no medication, no blood tests etc. All I did was show up with my pillow, pj’s and toothbrush.
After I ‘checked in’ and was escorted to my room, things got ‘borg-ish’ very fast (remember my embarrassing photo above).
My sleep nurse got me settled and I had to do an airway check (to rule out any nasal obstructions). Check! I was then given 10 minutes to get ready for bed…and then the metamorphosis began!
From memory, below is a list of everything that got attached:
- 2 belts with sensors around my best and abdomen
- A sensor on each calf
- 5 sensors on my face (refer scary photo)
- ~6 sensors glued to my scalp*
- Sensors on both sides of my collar bone
- Nasal cannula
- Finger sensor
- Mouth microphone
- ….and a partridge in a pear tree!
* I wasn’t ready for this one. I’d had a shower before I left home thinking that I would go straight to work (from the hospital). Erm…..no. The nurse produced a tube of white glue (think toothpaste) and when she started schlacking it in my hair, I knew I’d be heading home for a shower before work! 😉
Prior to each sensor being applied, the area had to be ‘prepped’ – cleaned, exfoliated and dried…for every location, including those on my scalp. All of the sensors were attached to long coloured wires that ultimately connected to a fuse box (see below).
The whole process took around 40 minutes and when the nurse was finished I was embarrassed to admit that I had to go to the loo again! She just smiled and explained that it happens all the time. The nasal cannula and a couple of the other big wires got disconnected and wrapped around my arm, and unbeknownst to me the fuse box was on a lanyard and that went around my neck. I then carefully waddled to the bathroom trying hard not to disconnect anything.
Then it was time to sleep.
Full disclosure – the night was pretty crappy. I had to buzz for the nurse again for another loo break (I can’t help it, I have a small bladder!!) and it took me quite a while to work out how I could manoeuvre myself onto my left-hand side. I usually fall asleep on my tummy, so that was working against me, but I eventually fell asleep.
The room was completely dark so when I woke up I had no idea if I’d been asleep for 5 minutes or 5 hours. I needed to go to the loo (again) and when the nurse came in to help me (a bloke this time) I happily learnt that it was 6.10am. HUZZAH!!
I quickly opted for him to start de-borging me so I could go to the bathroom technology free. It only took 10 minutes to take everything off and I got dressed and headed home with my hair still full of white goo.
Remember my mum who didn’t want to waste valuable time sleeping?? Over the years, my mum has become a worse sleeper than me. She’s still a chipper morning person but the continual hangover of poor sleep follows her around like a shadow.
In mum’s case, she struggles to stay asleep, she snores like a rusty chainsaw (which she never used to do) and I’m convinced that she does have sleep apnoea. Sleep is a big priority for me this year, but I also want to encourage my mum to book in for a sleep study too and I know she’d never do it unless I did it first. Mum – if you’re reading this, pick up the phone and make an appointment to see your GP (love you xx).
So, what’s my point to all this?? For most 30 something women, I would hazard a guess that booking in for a sleep study is not on you to do list. However, if you’re a poor sleeper like me and ready to do something about it, I recommend you talk to your GP at your next appointment. Start the conversation….it could be the first step to a better night’s sleep.
As I’m about to hit ‘publish’ on this post, I’m off to bed. I’ll be back with Part 2 – The Results in a few week’s time.