Sleep Study, Northwestern Sleep Disorder Center, 2017

I’ve been having trouble with my sleep apnea and my CPAP machine for a while now, and started to “kick” more in my sleep. Some of this stuff I know I do, other things I hear about from Liz. I’m probably a year or two overdue, but finally got another sleep study set up at Northwestern.

Usually, these studies do a check to see if you have sleep apnea. But since I already did a sleep study in 2007, I went back for a titration study – to revisit the settings I need for my CPAP machine.

So… another overnight study! Which is a bit like going to stay at a hotel room, but with more wires. You’ll see in a second…

Outside, about to walk in. Funny thing – last time I did a sleep study, the center was located on an entire floor inside a Radisson hotel.

Turning in my clipboard/info at the desk. I was surprised that, on walking in, there were about 5-6 other people in the waiting room, also filling out clipboards with their info.

Keep in mind this was close to 9PM. It took me a second to realize that 9PM in a sleep study office is like 12:00 PM in a regular doctor’s office. Of course it would be full of people.

Lots of hallways on this floor, and lots of rooms.

Each room is its own little mini-hotel room! Well, no mini-bar. But a small closet, flat screen TV, and decently comfortable bed.

The monitoring equipment, next to the bed. It’s really kind of interesting to compare this with what was next to the bed ten years ago.

Detail view of the complicated thing that does… something. It’s probably just for show.

Each room also has a fairly spacious bathroom.

Hi, my name is Felix and I take pictures of toilets for fun.

The bathroom also has a big shower.

A camera and lights in the ceiling, above the TV… pointed at the bed. The nature of the sleep study involves hospital staff monitoring each patient throughout the night.

In the drawer by the bed, I found a remote control for the bed… which was adjustable. I like that there’s a “snore” setting.

I am both comforted and troubled by whatever this thing is.

I got settled and changed for bed by around 9:15 PM. I was asked when I normally go to bed, and was told someone would come back around 10:30 to do all the prep. So I killed a bit of time reading my copy of Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology” (disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate link), which I got a bit ago as a birthday gift from Liz.

Before I knew it, 10:30 rolled around… and the attendant came back with a cart full of stuff.

And gel. Lots of gel. On seeing this, I said “that looks kind of scary.” But he assured me he actually squeezed out too much, and wasn’t going to be using all of this.

The gel is used as an adhesive, for all the electrodes that get attached.

Here’s me, all wired up.

And I’m going to eventually get hooked up to that guy, on the left.

Honestly, this whole process is kind of boring – and also doesn’t hurt in the slightest. It’s a bit like someone lightly gluing things to your face. The attendant (whose name I never got) asked if I wanted to watch TV during the process, but I peppered him with questions the whole time instead.

Start to finish, to get fully hooked up, I’d say it maybe took… 15 minutes? Maybe a bit more?

Last few electrodes on the legs.

And now the fun photo – me with a newer CPAP mask on.

I told the attendant I normally use a full face mask, and he asked whether I had attempted a nose-only mask. I was really skeptical, as I usually breathe through my mouth – and he listed out several options (there’s also a strap that can be used, to help keep the mouth closed).

He suggested the nose approach, saying that he would be watching me the whole night. If it didn’t work, we could try the strap, and if that still didn’t work we could move back to a mask. I was game, and trusted his advice/experience, and decided to go with the nose only approach.

All the wires, all hooked up.

Once I got everything attached and put on, it was time for the lights to go out. Good night!

// Morning Edit: The nose thing is weird. I’m used to the pressure of a CPAP machine, so I think I fared better than most people (who might not be used to this sort of thing).

The CPAP machine forces air in through the nose, but your natural reaction is to just breathe through your mouth like normal. But the only thing is, with the CPAP machine going… air looks for the path of least resistance. So the air pushed through your nose rushes out of your mouth, if you open your mouth.

It’s a little weird, and a little unpleasant.

But what’s even weirder is that to alleviate this unpleasant sensation, the best thing to do is to close your mouth. Which is totally counter-intuitive. It definitely took some getting used to.

I had a harder time falling asleep than usual. I usually can fall asleep within 5-10 minutes. With this new mask on, I want to say it took me maybe 15+ minutes.

For me with this new mask, there was a slight sensation of suffocation. That’s probably a bit too strong – more like a slight struggle to pull in and exhale air. Not terrible, just slight.

It definitely took some getting used to, but eventually I slept just fine. I woke up once, when the attendant came back in (the monitor on my index finger had come off), and maybe a few other times… but nothing major. When he came back in to wake me at 5:30 AM, I popped awake and asked what time it was.

I was genuinely surprised that I went the whole night with the nose mask on.

Since all participants in the sleep study had to be out of the rooms by 7AM, I headed for the bathroom and shower. Though I’m used to waking up early, I didn’t have any grogginess and didn’t feel like I had to drag myself out of bed.

Seeing a Side of Me I’ve Never Seen Before: Visiting the Ear/Nose/Throat Doc, Northwestern
Sleep Study, Northwestern
CPAP Machine and Mask (aka “The Vader Trainer”)
Trying Out New CPAP Masks (For My Sleep Apnea)

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