What Happens During a Sleep Study for Chronic Insomnia?

A lifelong, chronic insomniac, I recently completed an overnight sleep study at the DaVita Medical Group New Mexico Center for Sleep Medicine. My expectations were low - 32 years of sleeplessness will do that to you - but I liked the idea of being able to officially rule out certain sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, once and for all. Plus, whenever I complain about Sexy Nerd's snoring, he's all too quick to point out that I snore as well.

Spoiler alert - the polysomnogram found that I do NOT snore. Take that, Sexy Nerd!

My Sleep Study Experience

I arrived at the sleep clinic around 7 pm and was escorted to a private bedroom. Told to change into my pajamas, the nurse quickly added that I must do that in the bathroom with the door closed, as the bedroom is constantly monitored by cameras. It's the kind of advice you only need to hear once, yet she mentioned it several times within one or two minutes. This left me wondering if she thought the cameras were being watched by perverts.

After changing, a respiratory therapist brought me down the hallway to be weighed. This lead to my proud moment on the scale, joking "It must be my socks," and getting a laugh from a random man who was walking by. This sleep study is off to a great start, I thought confidently, feeling more like Jay Leno than myself. Oh, how quickly that ended.

All Tied Up

"I'm going to apply glue to your scalp," the respiratory therapist told me. Glue? On my scalp?? It gets better. "No matter what, you need to be absolutely certain not to use shampoo when you're trying to get it out. If you mix it with shampoo, it's all going to congeal together and you'll have to shave it out." I'd shampooed that very morning, rinsing to everyday standards but maybe not to sleep lab standards. Had I gotten it all out?!

Next came the wires and electrodes. Millions and millions of wires and electrodes. There are microphones near your mouth to listen for snoring and there are sensors above and below your eyes to sense any twitching. Wires run from your waist down each leg, through your pants, all the way to your feet to test for restless leg syndrome. I was told a sensor would be placed up my nose later and was glad I'd thought to bring a Benadryl with me. A belt is tightly strapped above your chest and another belt is tightly strapped around your ribcage. They made it difficult to breathe, so I loosened them as soon as I was alone. Then, I remembered how much I was paying for this sleep study and retightened them.

sleep study participant
Partially wired in (yes, only partially!) and laughing at myself, having finally seen my reflection for the first time.

wired with electrodes during my sleep study
The red was a surprise. What purpose could it have? I think the respiratory therapist may have gotten carried away when she was coloring on my face. 

photos from my sleep study
"Even though you're wired in, feel free to walk around," the respiratory therapist told me. Where did she think I might want to go, in my pajamas and looking like an electrical panel? 

Side note to all the gals like myself: photos taken from below make you look hella busty.

photo of face and head wires during a polysomnogram
A few more selfies and it was off to bed.

My Sleep Center Bedroom

sleep clinic in Albuquerque, NM
Back in my room, I noticed this bundle of joy next to my bed. More wires, I thought. Great.

Sleep Number mattress review and comparison

My room was equipped with a Sleep Number bed. I'd been looking forward to testing it out and possibly writing a review, but the mattress must have somehow known I'm an Amerisleep fan who has badmouthed Sleep Number, because my mattress didn't seem to work. I'd press the Up button once and the numbers would jump all the way to the top; Down and I was suddenly at the lowest setting. Despite these drastic changes, whenever I checked the Sleep Number remote, it was always on 35. I never did figure out what the 40 is supposed to do, if anything. It looks like a button, right?

blanket from Albuquerque sleep clinic
This isn't the Marriott. 

The NM Center for Sleep Medicine must have blown their entire budget on expensive, nonworking Sleep Number beds, leaving nothing for bedding. This was printed on my blanket. It did not instill confidence that I was in good hands. I think it originally said Property of US Government NNMC - Shiprock, years ago before it was deemed too old and straggly for use on a reservation. 
(NNMC = Northern Navajo Medical Center)

sleep lab cameras watch you sleep

There was a TV but no remote. I settled into bed and attempted to relax with a magazine I'd brought from home, nervously aware at least one camera was watching me. I'm still not sure what the other ceiling gizmos were for. I also got up a few times to fiddle with the thermostat. It seemed like it would run until it was too chilly, then release a loud KA-THUNK and run until is was scorching. KA-THUNK, back to freezing. It was going to be a long night.

sensors to test breathing, leg and eye movement, oxygen saturation, and more during my sleep study
Just chillaxin' while waiting for bed, feeling like a human Christmas tree. 

When it was finally time for lights out, around 11 or so, the same respiratory therapist from earlier came and attached more wires until the bed and I were one. She left, then spoke to me through a speaker in the room, instructing me to do things like breathe deeply and pretend to snore. The tests didn't go quite as planned, so she came back to adjust some of the wires and reposition a few of the glued on electrodes, taking a little of my skin in the process. I hadn't realized my sleep study would come with a free microdermabrasion.

So, how did I sleep?

I'd had some apprehension over the possibility that I wouldn't be able to sleep, rendering my study a waste of time and money, but my sleep doctor, Peter Guido, advised that it would be fine to take a sleeping pill (Unisom) during the test. The respiratory therapist also told me I was okay to take a Benadryl, lest my seasonal allergies destroy the nostril sensor. Still, it seemed unlikely I'd get a decent night's rest. I usually sleep on my side and my stomach, switching positions often and sometimes even flipping so that my head is at the foot of the bed (luckily Sexy Nerd is a deep sleeper), but this was impossible to do without pulling out any wires. For once, I had no choice but to sleep perfectly still.

I lectured myself to sleep, mentally repeating You'll have wasted all your money if you don't sleep. You'll have wasted all your money if you don't sleep. It worked. About an hour or two later though (I am a chronic insomniac, after all), I woke up. Then eventually fell back asleep. Then woke up again. Each time I awoke, I'd think about how I was freezing but couldn't get up to adjust the thermostat because I was wired to the bed. They said to press the call button if I need anything, like an extra blanket, I thought. My social anxiety wouldn't allow it though. Plus, it seemed like their blanket supplies were in sad shape. What if the Navajo reservation had refused to share any more of their blankets with the sleep clinic? It would have been embarrassing for them.

During one of my many awakenings, I felt just about ready to drift off to sleep again when my eyes were suddenly blinded by fluorescent light. The door to my room had been thrown open and the respiratory therapist was loudly announcing that she'd noticed I was awake and wondered if I'd like to get up and go home. Squinting and disoriented, I asked the time. "4:30," she said. I groggily asked if they'd be able to get more information from the test if I slept longer. "Absolutely. Your doctor said to let you sleep as late as you can." Ask for a second blanket, I thought. Don't let her leave without asking for a second blanket! She left and I eventually nodded off again, full of rage toward both of us.

Tips for sleeping during an insomnia study
Here I am after waking up around 9 am, tired, thirsty, and ready to get the heck out of the sleep center. 

Helpful Tips for Your Sleep Study...You Poor Thing

(Kidding! It really wasn't that bad. I would even recommend the NM Center for Sleep Medicine, as everyone there was really nice. Maybe bring your own blanket though.)
  1. Don't drink water close to bedtime. If nature calls, you're stuck. Technically, someone will come unwire you, then rewire you, but that's a hassle and it kinda hurts when those sensors are repositioned. Plus, I have sensitive skin, which resulted in several round, itchy welts across my neck that didn't go away for about a week. Thank goodness I'd kept the sensor repositioning to a minimum.
  2. Wear attractive, loose-fitting pajamas. Being paraded around strangers is no time for the stained jammies you've worn since 4th grade.
  3. Unless you're sure you won't get any sleep whatsoever, skip the sleeping pills. Although I was told by my doctor that it was okay to take a Unisom and by the respiratory therapist that I could add a Benadryl to the mix, I worry this affected my study results. I had a polysomnogram performed so I could get to the bottom of my everyday sleep problems, but slept in a way that wasn't typical. I may have actually slept too well, leading my doctor to think my insomnia is all in my head.
  4. Bring a book or magazine to enjoy while you wait for bedtime. Sure, you could watch TV or play a game on your phone, but then you've just demonstrated to your doctor that you have poor sleep hygiene. On camera.
  5. Press the call button! Why, oh why, didn't I ask for an extra blanket? I was freezing my butt off.
Sleep study results coming soon.

A Warning Against Impulsiveness

My crazy, anxiety-prone brain is a real jerk sometimes. Throughout our home building process, I've been required to meet with different suppliers one-on-one at least a dozen times and usually do a believable enough job playing the part of competent homeowner. Today, however, I set out on a quest for carpet prices feeling like a meek, pitiful shell of a human, wasting everyone's time and making a fool of myself. There was no reason for it. What's so difficult about asking for a carpet price? I even had a good idea what I wanted for once, so I could skip my usual look of indecisive puzzlement.

My anxiety and I stepped timidly through the door of the flooring shop, my forehead knit with concern. I try to stop myself from doing this. The raised eyebrows don't do me, or my wrinkles, any favors. I've tried Botox to fix this bad habit, but apparently I'm immune to botulism. I even remind myself to relax my face periodically, reaching up both hands and smoothing the grooves between my eyes. I'd barely set both feet inside the store before a loud saleswoman was at my side. Rather than allow me to browse the carpet choices myself, she eagerly brought me from display to display and peppered me with questions. I hated it. It was exactly what I'd needed.

By the time I was ready to leave, that loud saleswoman had stacked 6 different sample boards for me to take home, priced 4 different Mohawk carpets, answered my warranty questions, advised me on the pros and cons of various carpet lengths, and, after complimenting the emerald green of my purse, become my new best friend. I was feeling much better. She disappeared briefly and returned with one more sample board of carpet, which she placed on the countertop. A small spider scurried out from the fibers.

"Oh," she said, taking a step back. "I hope you're not afraid of spiders."

I am, but this was my chance to repay the saleswoman for all the time she'd invested in me. Impulsively, I locked eyes on the spider, barely a dot on the speckled granite, and prepared to strike. I didn't even have anything to smack him with. After the saleswoman had been so kind to me though, my bare hand would just have to do.

Anxiety chimed its ugly voice in again. You'll miss. It'll bite you. There was never even a spider there and now you're going to bang your fist on their counter like a crazy person and probably break your hand and break their counter and everyone here is going to see it happen and whisper about you and you'll never be able to show your face in here again, if you're even allowed to return at all.

A split second after I'd hesitated, the saleswoman pulled out a sheet of paper. "Come here, baby," she cooed. Yes, she was actually talking to the spider. I'm not making this up. "We'll get you outside nice and safe, won't we little baby?" After finding a suitable spider home outside, the saleswoman launched into a tirade against her manager. "The last time he found a spider," she said in a hushed tone of disapproval, "he killed it. Monster, right?"

Thank god for anxiety.

funny social anxiety story
I was going to share a photo of a spider here, but they were all so icky, with their millions of beady little eyes and pokey little legs. I found a photo of a dandelion with the teensiest spider hanging out on the stem, then decided the photo would be so much nicer without that creepy crawly photobomber. You're welcome.

Crazy Boss Quote of the Day

For the record, I'm using the term "crazy" in only the most loving of ways, especially if you happen to actually be my boss currently reading this. You are still my boss, right? C'mon, ol' buddy, ol' pal.

Also, "ol" is not short for old in the above sentence. Sixties are the new forties, after all.

I love my boss. I've worked for her for more than 12 years and am planning to stick with her until she retires. She's a pediatric dentist who gets enjoyment out of treating her patients with compassion and kindness. How can you not love a person like that? Okay, here is the quote:

I was walking down the hallway at work and my boss and I crossed paths. I always feel a little out of place when this happens, thinking that because my job is at a desk up front, I must surely be loafering* around if I'm spotted in the hall. But nature doesn't care, so as we walked by each other, I awkwardly squeaked that I was just heading for the restroom.

"Oh," she said. Then, she stopped. She turned and yelled down the hall to me. "Enjoy it!"

My boss is the second from the right. We all love her, but part of that love is accepting that you just never know what she's going to say.

*Yes, I did mean to write "loafering" instead of "loafing", thank-you-very-much Spell Check. I've been enjoying My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg. I'll best be speaking like a southerner from now on until forever, I reckon...or at least until I hit Play on my next audiobook.

Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home: Bad Real Estate Photos

Construction on our custom, mountain dream home should finally be finished soon, after only a million years. Can you believe it? That said, you may be surprised to read my days of browsing Redfin and Realtor.com are anything but over. Listing photos are a fantastic resource for decorating ideas! Unlike Houzz, which features image after image of too-perfect-to-be-real (hint: they're usually not) pictures, real estate photos show you actual homes (just like yours!) with decorating ideas that are functional for real life.

As much as I love finding a Pinterest-worthy home on Redfin, my guilty pleasure is the bad listings. Like, yell at the computer, what-were-they-thinking bad listings.

Here is one for the record books. Just try to keep a straight face while browsing through these listing photos from a home in Holladay, UT. And remember, the photos you are about to see are all from the same house. The last one will blow your mind.

The listing price is on the bottom of this post. See if you can correctly guess the price by the time you get down there.

I can't figure out what's going on with that pink lamp in the corner, among other things. Is it touching the ceiling and the tabletop? Who or what fogged up the glass?

With "rustic bling" as my decorating style, the chandeliers and stone would actually be selling points for me. It's hard to overlook the orange, shaggy stairs though. My initial thought was that it couldn't possibly be that difficult to remove the carpeting, but look closer. Top, bottom, and sides; those steps are wrapped up tight.

It gets better though...

Carpeted shelves in mismatched colors. And how did stains get on the underside of that upper shelf?

Let's say this is somehow impossible to fix. "The shag carpeting on these shelves is crucial to the structural integrity of this house," you cry. "These are load-bearing shag shelves!" Fine.

But wouldn't the listing be better off without this photo? Mention the large walk-in closet in your description and let your potential buyers imagine they're better than they actually are. 

Out of everything going on in this photo, the counter is what really *calls* my attention.

For the longest time, I thought that was a mirror instead of a door. It's just the photo right...and not a crooked door?

If orange shag (at least, it used to be orange) and orange wallpaper are not your preferred color scheme, have no fear... 

...there's plenty of green goodness to go around!

Based on the rest of these listing photos, I'd say this room is the main selling point of this house. Considering we're not in the 70s, 80s, or 90s though, wouldn't it have been better to remove the window treatments? Showcase that enormous wall of windows!

Wood paneling could come back into style, I suppose. Do you think those bizarre window treatments are there because of the homeowner's strange taste or are they concealing an eyesore? There could be a cemetery or a nuclear power plant down there.


This is one of my biggest pet peeves in real estate listing photos. Close the closet door when trying to sell your home.

Not that it really matters at this point.

This photo makes me giggle. Does that built-in TV have a knob? How do you reach it with the TV all the heck of the way up there?

Someone in this house really has a flair for style.

I appreciate the attempt at staging here, but can't help thinking the little bathroom friend made things worse.

I wasn't alive during the 70s. Can someone please tell me what that contraption is above the stove? My first guess was microwave, but I see one of those on the counter. And is it actually attached to the stove?

Crazy stairs!

And now, for the grand finale...

Are you ready? Once you see this, you can't unsee it.

Remember, all of the photos here are from the same, tragic 70s house...

OMG! Was this a 70s thing? I'm no expert, but I feel like this was never a thing, 70s or otherwise.

The best part? The asking price for this gem of a home is a mere 1.2 million dollars.

My parents have a house they're preparing to list. Over the past month, they've invested time and money to make it shine. They've done more to stage the entire home than has been done to even one room of this house. They're listing it as a rental. AS. A. CHEAP. RENTAL.

I have more hilariously bad real estate photos to share here. There are also some great examples of what you should do when photographing your house for sale here. Heck, visit that last link even if you don't have a house to sell. The photos are gorgeous!
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