Archive for January, 2007

Sweet Dreams

When I go to sleep, I stop breathing 77 times an hour.

I did not know this until a couple of days ago. I just knew that I slept badly. I have for years. I thought that was just the way it was.

Now, I’m told, that can change. I get a machine that blows air through a mask that I wear at night, and I no longer stop breathing. Restful sleep returns.

As well as being good news, this is discombobulating news. After thinking that there was nothing to do about the sorry state of my sleep, I find out that there is a relatively straightforward remedy. It makes me wonder whether I could do something about other things that I think of as unsatisfactory fixtures.

On my own, I wake up several times during the night. Since His Dogness started having troubles with failing kidneys, he has to go out one or more times during the night. So, between the two of us, being up five times a night is not unusual.

At my annual exam, my doctor asked how my sleep was. Not good, I said, and threw in a couple of details.

Off you go to a sleep specialist, he said.

The sleep doctor sent me to spend the night in a sleep clinic for a sleep study. The technicians applied goop to make things stick, marked the spots for various leads with a marker and then hooked up one wire after another, most of them to my head.

How many? I asked.

Twenty-four, they said.

Are you going to videotape this?

DVD, actually.

What happens when I need to go to the bathroom?

You call out, and one of us will come unhook you.

They helped me into bed, plugged me into the wall and turned out the lights.

I was prepared for a bad night.

I was not disappointed.

I tossed. I turned. The part I disliked most was having to ask to be unhooked in the middle of the night to toddle into the bathroom.

I went home feeling brittle.

After the doctor looked at the report, he sent me back to the clinic the next night to try out the breathing machine.

I didn’t expect to see you so soon, I said to the technician.

I did, said the technician.

Despite the circumstances, I had one of the best nights of sleep I had had in a long time.

When I went to see the doctor later that day, he told me that stopping breathing 30 times an hour is considered serious and that, on average, I stopped breathing 77 times an hour that first night. He said that there was another troubling number. Coincidentally, it was also 77. My blood oxygen went down to 77 percent while I was sleeping. It should be well up in the 90s, he said.

The doctor said he considered the situation life-threatening. If nothing were done, I could have a stroke or heart attack.

But something could be done. I could get a breathing machine. I have an appointment on Monday.

In the meantime, I have been filling everyone in on my numbers. Those numbers would be really scary if they had been followed by the words “nothing to be done.” Because they weren’t, I have been enjoying, in a perverse way, having such dire news. No pedestrian sleep troubles for me. No, sir. Mine are life-threatening.

I’m looking forward to no longer stopping breathing. Who knows what might happen once my brain starts getting all the oxygen that it should at night? Maybe I will become a genius.

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