This post is part of an ongoing series about what happens when an active dreamer goes in for a sleep study. Click here to read the first post in the series.
My sleep study took place on one of the coldest nights in a historically cold winter. But I didn’t mind, because what better thing is there to do on a cold night than snuggle in for a long night of sleep and dreaming?
I imagined the night being something like sleeping in a hotel room—but with a few wires attached to my head and face for the benefit of the technicians and other professionals who’d be monitoring my sleep patterns for any sign of irregularity. So, as if I were setting off for a mini-vacation, I packed a book to read and my journal, along with my toothbrush and pajamas.
I was still feeling optimistic about my chances of having a pleasant night’s rest when I arrived at the sleep center and my technician, we’ll call him Dr. Z, led me to what looked like an economy grade hotel room, such as you’d find in a Days Inn. There was a double bed facing a wall-mounted large-screen television, a night table, and private bath.
But there was also a bedside console the size of a nineties-era computer tower, and a hefty hank of colorful wires coiled on the side of the bed where I like to sleep.
But my hopes for a cozy evening of pre-bedtime journaling and reading were finally dashed when Dr. Z motioned for me to take a seat in the straight-backed chair beside the bed, and informed me that he’d spend the next 45 minutes attaching all those wires—not only to my head and face—but also to my chest, back, legs, and finger. And if that weren’t enough, he explained that a cannula would be inserted into my nostrils.
He also pointed out a camera mounted to the wall above the bed, and a little device that looked like a baby monitor on the bedside table, both of which would be recording me throughout the night.
While I digested all of this, I grabbed the remote control and clicked off the television, where a weatherman was predicting sub-zero temperatures for the night. “You know, watching TV before bed isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep,” I said.
“That’s true,” Dr. Z replied in a flat voice. I realized later, he must have been restraining himself from replying that my comment was way beside the point. After all, within an hour I’d be weighted down by wires and tethered to the computer console for the rest of the night. I couldn’t even walk the few paces to the bathroom without assistance.
The entire room, it turned out, was a collection of sleep hygiene “don’ts.”
As a Dream Therapist, who helps people improve their sleep for a good night’s dreaming, I ticked off in my mind each infraction one by one:
Good Advice: For a good night’s sleep darken your bedroom as much as possible.
Grim Reality: In the Sleep Center little attempt had been made to block out the light from the floodlights in the parking lot. The window was covered only by a slatted blind; there was no curtain or black-out shade. Furthermore, a small glowing red light was attached to my finger, which meant that every time my hand passed anywhere near my face, the red light shone in my eyes.
Good Advice: Eliminate screens from the bedroom. Don’t watch television before bed.
Grim Reality: In the Sleep Center a large screen TV is mounted across from the bed.
Good Advice: Sleep in loose, comfortable clothing.
Grim Reality: Although I packed a pair of cozy pajamas, my Sleep Center sleepwear also included constricting wires and bands fastened around my ribs and belly.
Good Advice: Your bedroom should be a quiet and peaceful environment.
Grim Reality: In the Sleep Center it was as if I were cozied up to a refrigerator motor, as the lab equipment hummed beside me all night long.
In short, “Sleep Center” turned out to be a cruel misnomer. And needless to say, I slept but little—though I did dream a lot—on the night of my sleep study.