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A Study of Sleep

 

 

I had to do a sleep study for the new Pulmonologist. He did breathing tests, and x-rays, and walking-while-breathing tests, and inhaling-vile-stuff-while-breathing tests, and then he wanted a sleep study to see if sleep apnea was causing my exhaustion and shortness of breath. Each new doctor has his own set of tests you have to take, it’s their thing, and if you want them to take anything you say seriously, you have to jump through all of their hoops. I’d done a sleep study years ago that came out normal, but he wanted to check again.

I was really anxious that this new sleep study, which would be done at home, would be like the ambulatory EEG, which involved having a video camera pointed at me at all times, and wires glued to my head. But there was no video camera or glue this time, thank God. I had to wear monitors, but they were small and wrapped around my chest and abdomen with elastic, and a nasal cannula was stuffed into my nostrils, and there was a monitor on my wrist and middle finger to keep track of the oxygenation of my blood. It wasn’t especially humiliating, though neither of the dogs chose to sleep near me that night. I’m sure that was just a coincidence.

The results of the sleep study were, as I’d expected, normal. I do not have sleep apnea. The thing I don’t understand is, if you are going to study sleep to try to discover more about my overall health, why would you only focus on a limited area like sleep apnea? Isn’t there anything else about sleep that is worthy of attention?

I have always had trouble with sleep. Even as a kid, I would wander around, go to my Mom, visit the bathroom a few times, and then stare at the ceiling and count the circles in the asbestos tiles for hours. Every creak of the house made me worry about monsters under the bed. But even now, even when I get to sleep on time and wake up on time, I still don’t feel rested.

The dogs are champion sleepers. Cricket can pull a blanket off the couch and smush it into cozy nest for herself on the floor and take a short daytime nap any time she pleases. Butterfly will find one of the stuffed toys, anywhere Cricket has left it on the floor, and stretch out for nap right next to it. Cricket can stretch into all manner of unimagined yoga poses to vary her sleep style and keep it interesting.

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“Platypus needs this blanket more than you do, Mommy. “

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Two toys are better than one.

In fact, the dogs change sleep positions very frequently. I think I do this too, except that I don’t have as much room for variation as they do. I’ll turn over, or kick my blankets away, or curl up, or stretch out, but they actually move from place to place and alter the whole landscape of sleep. I only sleep on my bed, but they can sleep on my bed, on the hard floor, on their pet beds, on carpets, on couches, under couches, chin on a shelf, or chin on my leg. But no matter how they sleep, or when or where they sleep, the dogs wake up raring to go, and ready to go outside and pee, and then ready to eat, and then ready to get back to sleep. They can wake up and fall asleep so quickly!

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Platypus is a very accommodating sleep partner.

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But so are my shoes.

008

Cricket can’t decide which bed to sleep on.

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Or maybe she should sleep on the floor.

It seems like the sleep study should have looked at some of the practical issues of sleep. Maybe along with the heart rate monitors and oxygen concentrations monitors and such, they could have asked me questions, like, was I too hot or too cold? Did I wake up during the night? Did I have bad dreams, or nightmares? Did I feel rested in the morning? But they don’t want to know if I kick or turn a lot when I sleep, or if I’m in pain when I wake up. They don’t want to know about problems they don’t know how to solve. All they want to know is if my breathing is interrupted when I sleep, because they have a machine for that.

Maybe if each doctor took a more detailed interest, in each area of testing, they could have figured out something by now. But instead they choose the easiest thing, for them, and the hardest thing for me, and come up with nothing. I bet if Cricket could read medical journals, she’d have me fully diagnosed by now. She could use Butterfly to monitor my skin temperature, and flavor, overnight, and she herself could test my reflexes with her patented Jump-On-Mommy-While-She’s-Still-Sleeping test. Both dogs watch me very carefully, and I’m sure if they could write they’d fill many notebooks with all of their trenchant observations. And yet none of my doctors have asked for their input in making a diagnosis.

Phooey.

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Diagnostic exam in process.

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Cricket consults with Butterfly before delivering her diagnosis.

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

97 responses »

  1. My cats must sleep at least 22.5 hours per day. And when she wakes up (at 1:30 in the morning), Parker will scratch at our door. She just wants us to be up. She is going back to sleep, thank you very much. We need to channel our inner pet, Rachel. Gosh, I wouldn’t know how to act if I got that much sleep!. But let’s see what Cricket and Butterfly say first…..

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  2. So enjoy your sharing the girls with us!

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  3. Glad that your sleep study turned out normal once again. Our dogs are enjoying their favorite horizontal positions as we speak, which also occupies a lot of their day.

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  4. I feel your pain, I too went through the sleep study process at a sleep center, I don’t know how people who have sleep problems fall asleep with those gizmos. Dogs do have the best deal when it comes to sleep, I wish I had a clue as to how they did it. Exhaustion is hard to live with day in and day out, I hope that we will find relief eventually. 😀

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  5. The greatest moment in medicine is presenting the bill.

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  6. I noticed one night my Dalmatian both snored at night and continually ground her teeth. After my annual dental check up he informed me that I ground my teeth to the point he wanted me to start wearing a retainer at night to prevent the “wearing” from becoming critical! I always knew I snored, Big Time, but was completely unaware of the grinding. So Rachel, yes the dogs just may be your best diagnostics!

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  7. I think I might take Butterfly or Cricket’s opinion over a human Doctor. They think with their hearts.

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  8. I really enjoyed seeing photos of Cricket and Butterfly. They are very attentive. Hope you are sleeping better.

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  9. I know what keeps me from sleeping well at night, it’s my creative mind. When I get an idea in the middle of the night, I can’t sleep unless I put it down. This inspiration may come to me at midnight, two in the morning, or maybe even 5 in the morning.

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  10. My husband took that same test, and they also told him he was normal. Trust me, his sleep patterns are not normal!!! But I think you are right, they are only looking for problems they know how to solve. I hope you are able to sleep better soon.

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  11. Good evening my fellow dog loving insomniac! And now we have a sleep study in common, although mine indicated sleep apnea albeit it “minimal”. My test was in 2006 and I had to get a CPAP machine. It didn’t help me; in fact it irritated me to no end. About (6) months after I started using it, I had an unexpected hospital admission for an old leg injury. The room was so arid that I thought my eyes would turn into miniature replicas of the Sahara. So I cranked on the CPAP and instead of wearing it, used it to propel humidity into my airspace. Short time later I donated it and I haven’t strangled myself yet during the night.from the “apnea”. Sometimes I listen to the dogs snoring which helps me sleep. Lately I’ve been turning on one of (2) dog playlists on Spotify; “Songs for Dog Therapy” or “Music for Dogs: Dog Music, Puppy Music” which put all of us to sleep!
    As for the inability to make a correct diagnosis, I think managed care continues to make substantial changes in the field of healthcare which seem to be symptom specific driven as opposed to overall diagnosis. Just my opinion of course.

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  12. These are some of the very BEST pics of Cricket and Butterfly – I love them!
    I am sorry for your sleep issues – I gave up sleep for menopause – and never was able to recapture the 8 hours necessary for good health. Thankfully my doctor prescribed ambien which is supposed to do all kinds of horrible things to you if you take it over a long period of time…which I have now taken for years…which probably explains a lot, but at age 70 who really cares. Now I sleep 6 hours at night and make up the other two at various naps during the day. This may not work for you, but at least you could avoid annoying sleep studies.
    Food for thought. I’m sorry for your difficulties – nothing worse than trying to figure out what to count next in the middle of the night.

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  13. Those two make me laugh… and Benn pretty much having the same problem deciding where to sleep. Sometimes it is half bed and half floor. Funny 😀

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  14. I wonder if a homeopath could help you; my insomnia has really been helped with Silicea, a homeopathic remedy available at health food stores or online. Rescue Sleep is another one that’s great if emotional issues are keeping you awake. <— Flower essences, they do work wonders! Getting off gluten (and later, corn) really helped my sleep too. It's like peeling an onion. Sharing in case any of this could be useful for you.

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  15. I hope you sleep better soon and you get the real help you need. My cats used to be so cozy all the time that I would feel jealous haha! Your doggies are too cute xxx

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  16. Chicki spends most of her life, asleep. She’s asleep right now, under my chair as I write. In a few minutes I’ll go to bed, but as soon as I move, she’ll follow me in.
    I think it helps to read something light and enjoyable, going to bed. That usually helps to put me in the mood for sleep.
    Butterfly and Cricket are looking great 🙂
    Hope you feel better, soon!

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  17. Sweet sleeping pups!!!! If only yours could be as restful!

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  18. I do think everyone has a normal, and maybe yours varies far enough from the average that doctors raise their eyebrows. My youngest son has never slept more than six hours straight, unless he was physically ill. He’s had the tests, too. Just out of nosiness, are you a napper, Rachel? I think if you can supplement with worthy naps it makes up for a lot of lost sleep!

    As always, you make a tough topic fun to read and think about…

    Pam

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  19. I completely agree. I have never slept well either…that’s why I turned down the sleep test and just take occasional melatonin. 🙂 Plus I just try to go to bed early and do all the other ‘sleep friendly’ things…. I simply accept I’m a poor sleeper. I know I have nose issues and wake myself up by snoring etc, have a dog that jumps on me, an over active brain. Oh well. xo

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  20. You have my sympathy Rachel. Until I got my arthritis under control and got rid of my fibromyalgia, I woke up dragging my anchor every day. Yrars ago a friend of mine wound up being sent to a sleep center in New York. They recorded her brainwaves and found that she was barely gettiing any REM sleep. They sent her to a bio-feedback training and it helped. Maybe this sort of thing is too New Age for the average MD but it was more then 20 years ago. I love the pictures of the diagnoses and consultation. I might actually go to doctors who loked like Cricket and Butterfly.

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    • I was sent to biofeedback years ago, but I didn’t have the patience for it, which was pretty much the point.Butterfly thinks that I will sleep much better if I spend fifteen minutes scratching her back first. It’s her version of biofeedback.

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  21. I had to smile as I do with many of your posts. a few giggles escaped from my lips reading this. Rachel the delivery of witty humor which you serve up for us is delicious. Understated, with just the right timing to tickle us.
    IYour style reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s dialogs, his characters utter the funniest comments, often understated & unnoted by the fellow characters.
    But as.we listen attentively, we catch the humor, I think that’s why we continue be delighted by his few plays even after many hearings. Rich layers of humor we discover with each hearing,

    those rich layers of wit continue to amuse us.when they seem to pass unnoted by fellow characters.

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  22. Rachel, I don’t know to comment as a fellow poor sleeper or as a doctor who used to read many sleep studies. First the latter, much information is available or should be available from the sleep study. For instance if the room is too hot or too cold, it should be apparent that something in the surroundings is causing the person frequent arousals throughout the night. A number of disorders including sleep walking, sleep talking, night terrors, REM behavioral disorders for example are diagnosed from good polysomnograms. Sleep apnea is the best known disorder, but far from the only one.

    Sometimes folks have a hard time turning off the day. I know I will fret in the middle of the night over something, usually of little consequence. You strike me as a deep thinker and one who might have this type of insomnia. In any event, I wish you better sleep and encourage you to please keep writing. Sweet dreams!

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    • Thank you so much! It’s good to know that I’m not sleepwalking (though I think Cricket would have told me about that in her own gentle way when I stepped on her int he middle of the night).

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  23. I would trust Drs. Cricket and Butterfly with life! 🙂

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  24. Dogs always know best 🙂

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  25. I don’t know much of anything about sleep tests, but it seems that you are never going to come close to normal sleep with something stuck in your nostrils, one thing wrapped around your chest and another around your wrist.

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  26. So glad it’s not sleep apnea! Have you researched vitamins or herbs? I love the picture of Butterfly sleeping with her tongue out. True serenity at its finest.

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  27. That picture of doctors Cricket & Butterfly is just priceless !! I’d take their advice very seriously and I bet it’d work wonders ! 😉

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  28. My wife and I have had multiple sleep studies. The results are always the same: non-diagnostic. Honestly, I don’t know how with wires and all they can hope to measure “normal” sleep, especially when I as an older man have to be disconnected and reconnected every time I get up in the middle of the night. It looks like Cricket and Butterfly would be perfect subjects, sleeping the night away.

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  29. Ah, sleep! We boys have no trouble, but having said that I am alert and ready to go immediately anything at all happens. Sleep is not nearly so interesting as being awake, and that’s why I think interesting people are awake more! Pip and the boys

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  30. Thank you for providing such enjoyable content in your posts. It makes no difference if we are dog lovers, love to laugh or enjoy
    great story telling. your posts appeal to us all. 😋

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  31. I’m impressed with the whole stuffed dog toys in your photos. My new dog, Piper, shreds a new one within 5 minutes. When she was young my previous dog, Isabelle, played with a stuffed toy only long enough to pull the limbs off, then lost interest. When she got older she didn’t play with them at all.

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    • The birthday cake toy in the picture has been repaired three or four times, and lost its music maker long ago. But the extreme-toy-destruction seems to have hit it’s limit in our house. Cricket has moved on to digging holes in the carpet.

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  32. Sounds like we have similar sleep issues. I lost track of how many stories I ‘wrote’ in my head growing up. Wish I had actually written them down. I’ve also had several pointless sleep studies.
    Here are some tips that have worked for me, although nothing seems to be foolproof. Regular exercise during the day helps. So does unloading anything on your mind into a notebook. Stay away from electronic screens at least an hour before bed. Bright lights wake your body up. I put a dimmer switch on my bathroom light so I can cut the brightness in the evening before bed. In the morning I crank it up. Regular massage is also good. Don’t know how you feel about medication, but Lunesta helps sometimes. Melatonin did nothing for me, but my daughter swears by it. A glass of wine might be tempting, but the sugars will actually wake you up. Avoid caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. Good luck and hope you sleep well.

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  33. We can learn a lot from dogs. Sleeping with my face in a shoe isn’t one of them.

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  34. Rachel, you never cease to put a smile on my face as I read your posts! Wishing you the best of health & luck with your sleep test.

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  35. I love how Cricket smushes up the blanket under her- my dog used to do that too. He would go in circles arranging and rearranging then plop himself down. When sleep is elusive it makes daily living so difficult.

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  36. Gabapentin has delivered the sleep that eluded me most of my adult life. As the doctor said when I commented that it worked so much better than the handful of OTC drugs I’d been using…
    “huh, the problem is pain”

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  37. My two dogs are the same way when it comes to sleep. However, on me seems to be their ideal. Both jockeying for position. We have a king size bed. Do you think they will sleep near my husband?! I’m practically falling off the bed and everyone else is sleeping just fine. I feel for you on the sleeping issue. I have trouble myself, but at least I know the medical reason why. I pray you find the answer soon.

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  38. Great photos of your two showing us how to sleep. I envy dogs this ability to sleep when needed and regain their energy. I am glad that you have them to help you get throur each day

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  39. My favorite is the last picture. Isn’t it great how the dogs communicate with each other?

    I went for a walk this morning (it was about 80 degrees before 10 a.m!) and left my dogs inside the fence. They were still whimpering and barking when I got back. I’m like, “Really, dogs? Really?” I suppose I’ll have to take them with me next time.

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  40. I had to do a sleep study and they found I don’t get REM sleep? I guess that’s why I fall asleep after driving long than 30 min, or read, or sit on the computer, anything like that. Now my baby girl, I miss my baby so much, she would get up and come lay on me when I started moving around d a lot at night. I think she was just trying to make me stop moving and keeping her awake!!!

    Reply

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