I got to the sleep center at about 7:50. When I walked in, there was one person in the waiting room, and one person who’d followed me in. There was no sign of anyone working there. Our names were pre-printed on the sign-in sheet, and we just had to indicate the time we arrived.

Eventually, a man entered the administrative area and checked us in. He told us out technicians would be out soon to take us to our rooms.

Valerie was my technician. She escorted me and one other man to our rooms. Along the way she pointed out the “breakfast area” where we could have a muffin, coffee, and orange juice on the way out in the morning. She deposited the other patient in room 11 and me in room 12. She asked that I change into my sleep clothes and left, closing the door.

After I changed, I used the bathroom and came back to my room. I heard a little servo motor, and saw that it was coming from a little camera mounted to the ceiling. The intercom came on, and Valerie asked me to smile for the camera. I hate my forced smile.

Valerie came back in with some forms and a bundle of wires. She said there were 26 connections plus two breath monitors. She began measuring my head and marking spots with a red crayon. Then, she started applying the wires. She cleaned each spot with alcohol, and then applied some kind of epoxy that turned freezing cold as it cured. She taped a loop of wire across my upper lip that hung in front of my mouth to detect oral breathing. She put a little loop of tubing under my nose with a stub for each nostril. The wires were applied everywhere — around my scalp for brainwaves, two sets by my eyes (one for blinking and one for eye movement), near my mouth to detect grinding teeth, on my chest for heart monitoring, and on my legs to detect restless leg activity. There were straps across my chest and gut for measuring breathing.

We talked about the process, and I mentioned my doctor telling me I may try a CPAP machine during the test. She said that was very unlikely, as you have to have 80 apnea events in two hours for them to try it during the first sleep test. I told her not to underestimate me.

She left me to watch TV for a while and relax. “Forrest Gump” was on. I took a few pics with my phone and stuck them on facebook.

When it was time to go to sleep, Valerie explained the bathroom process (with all the wires), and sent me for one last pre-sleep visit. I climbed into the bed, and was told to stay on my back. The last sensor, an O2 sensor, was placed on my finger. I don’t sleep on my back, so I decided to meditate a while to get myself in the right state of mind. I was interrupted by an extensive calibration routine. Eyes up and down. Eyes left right. Open eyes, close eyes. Blink 5 times quickly. Open mouth. Close mouth. Make a chewing motion. Bite down hard. Flex left foot. Flex right foot. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hold a breath for 10 seconds. And now it was time to sleep.

There were no clocks in the room. So I had no idea how much time had passed. The intercom came on and Valerie told me I could sleep on my side. I’d settled in enough that I no longer felt the wires, but they became very apparent again when I turned sideways. Eventually, I fell back to sleep.

Another unknown period of time went by, and Valerie came into the room. She had the CPAP mask with her this time. I kind of laughed, and she said, “Yeah, you qualify.” She told me it was set very low as she adjusted it over my nose. Immediately, air came out my mouth, and I instinctively closed it. She said she’d be adjusting the pressure remotely as I slept. It’s very difficult to speak with air being forced into one’s nose. I had to sleep on my back again, and this time, I found it harder than before. I had no issues the first time, but this time, my legs were twitchy and just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I did doze off at some point, though.

Wearing a CPAP mask is a unique experience. It is held hard against your face by the straps. I’d read about masks pushing patients’ front teeth out of alignment over time, and the pressure of the mask I wore makes me believe it could happen. I will have to discuss this with my doctor when it comes time to select one. Throughout the night, I felt like I was awake a lot. I couldn’t snore, and I never woke up with closed air passages, but I did not feel like I slept. I also felt like without force, I never finished exhaling. This is a more disturbing feeling than you might expect. Once in a while, I would open my mouth, and that caused me to immediately snap into alertness as air flowed out. Other times, my cheeks would inflate.

A little later, the intercom came on yet again, and I was told I could sleep on my side. This is not easy with a mask on. Several attempts to put my head on the pillow resulted in a loud whoopee cushion impression from the side of the mask. Shuffling the hoses and lifting and re-lowering my head a number of times got it to stay on correctly.

5:30am did finally arrive. Valerie spoke over the intercom again, guiding me through the calibration procedure again. This time, it was with the mask on. All was fine until she asked me to breathe heavily through my mouth. It’s a panicky feeling to have air enter your mouth from both above and below. Then she had me remove the mask, and she came in to end the test.

I felt like I’d slept perhaps 4 hours throughout the whole night. But when I sat up, my eyes were happy to be open. I certainly wasn’t done sleeping, but I felt quite rested for such a disturbed night. I don’t even feel that way after sleeping in on weekends. I said to Valerie, “So I guess I exceeded the threshold?” She laughed and said, “I didn’t expect it, but you did. You’ll get your numbers from your doctor in a week or two.” I was thinking, “Judge me by my size, do you?”, but I figured she would not understand the joke.

She applied solvents to all the leads, and the glue just let go. No hair-ripping or skin-stinging. She invited me to clean up and grab a little breakfast on my way out. I took a shower, and got dressed. As I walked out, there was no one to be seen. I must have been the last patient. I grabbed a muffin and a cup of coffee, and I walked toward the front. There was nowhere to eat it. So I left the building, seeing absolutely no one on the way out. I got into my car – the only one in the lot – and headed homeward.

It was a small coffee, so I stopped at Einstein just before coming home. I got a bagel and a large coffee, deciding to save the muffin for later. At home, I ate my breakfast, turned on the TV, and proceeded to get the rest of my sleep on the couch when Jess left for work. Maggie, the evil kitty, managed to get into my bag and steal the muffin as I slept. Nasty little thing.