Blogs, mental health

I spent the night at a sleep clinic

Those of you that have followed me on here or on Twitter for a while will be aware that in the past year I have been diagnosed with a condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. In a nutshell, it’s a conditon that causes the sufferer to experience a regular pattern of disturbed sleep. Typical symptons include loud and prolonged snoring, irregular breathing and multiple unconscious awakenings throughout the night. To put it simply, I snore a lot, I stop breathing at regular intervals and I keep waking up without realising it. All of this leaves me feeling permenantly tired, not to mention the fact that the condition is dangerous if left untreated.

Anyway, back in December I took part in a simple ‘at home’ sleep study and the result of that was my diagnosis and me being issued with a CPAP, ( Continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Although it took quite some getting used to, it now feels perfectly natural to strap a plastic nose mask to my face when I go to sleep each night. In fact, it feels somewhat odd when I don’t.

The problem is that my levels of extreme tiredness just haven’t improved. Despite spending up to 12 hours of any day sleeping I just feel permenantly exhausted. So much so that it is often difficult to function and lead a normal life. I certainly couldn’t see myself holding down a traditional 9-5 job for example.

So, having spoken to my sleep consultant at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, I was booked in for an overnight stay at the sleep clinic. This was so that they could monitor me properly and hopefully gain some insight into what is causing my condition.

Now I’ve never stayed in hospial overnight before. So I guess I was a little aprehensive about what it would be like. But I’m happy to say that I was very well looked after.

Once I had arrived at 8.30pm I was shown to a private room, (Which was actually an office with a single bed in it) by a lovely nurse called Louise. Once there, I changed into my night clothes – in this instance lounge pants and a T-shirt – and settled down on the bed for a couple of hours to relax. Louise was kind enough to give me access to the clinic’s WiFi for free so I was able to take it easy and watch a bit of YouTube and listen to the radio for a couple of hours. Then, at around 10:45pm she came back to get me set up ready for the sleep monitoring process.

This involved wires. A lot of wires. I had sensors stuck to my chest and back, sensors attached to my legs via wires running down each leg, two big bands running around my stomach to monitor my breathing, a machine attached to those bands with a load of wires going into it, a sensor just above my top lip and a sensor placed on my index finger. I also had a wear my CPAP machine on top of all that and I was also going to be filmed via a night vision camera above the bed. It all felt very Big Brother like in the way it was set up! Anyway, once all of that was done, the light went off and I settled down to try and get some sleep.

I had a few difficulties doing so mind you. Firstly, the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable compared to the bed I usually sleep in. Then the pillows they had provided were incredibly thin and flat and I tend to need quite firm, high pillows in order to sleep.

The biggest issue though was the awareness of my surroundings. I knew I was in a strange bed in a strange place, (There’s nothing quite like your own bed after all!) and I guess I felt under pressure to go to sleep quickly so that they could monitor me properly.

Anyway, after tossing and turning for what seemed like the entire night, I was eventually woken up by Louise just after 6am. I asked her what my sleep had been like and, having been watching the feed of me during the night, she told me it had been very disturbed.

After that, I removed the tangle of wires and sensors from my body, collected my discharge letter and was set free into the early morning Bristol sun. I felt exhausted. Perhaps more so than usual. But I had to drive home to Wiltshire. So, after a brief stop off at McDonalds for breakfast, I headed off.

So now I’m waiting for the return of the memory card from my CPAP machine, (They need to download and analyze the data from that night) and a follow up appointment with my consultant to discuss where we go from here. He has said that he thinks my condition is made worse by the cocktail of medication that I have to take each day. Particularly the Quetiapine element. So it may be that I need to look at reducing the dose or seeking an alternative. We shall see.

Anyway, all in all my first ever night in a hospital went well. Fingers crossed that the results are conclusive.

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