Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Big Sleep

My old friend Eric Olsen, one of at least four people who read this blog from time to time, sent me an e-mail last weekend in the middle of the night. The e-mail (which I did not read until the next morning) stated that Eric was having trouble getting to sleep and decided to go on line to read some of my old blogs to help him get drowsy. I have no doubt that it worked.My old history Prof. used to keep Barker's Life of Stephen F. Austin on his bed stand, claiming that in thirty years it had never failed to send him straight to dream land.

Coleridrge said of sleep that "it is a gentle thing, beloved from pole to pole", which I always felt was a bit much , even for Coleridge. Sleep is something we have to do. It is something that we wish we did not have to do until we do it, then, once we start it, it is something that we wish we did not have to stop.It is that time in between "having to start" and "not wanting to stop" that can be problematic. Many people, my wife included, simply don't sleep much and suffer for it. My wife, because she never sleeps, is constantly upset when I do sleep. She thinks that eight hours a night is akin to slacking.She questions my going to bed at 10:00 pm as if it is a serious error in judgment. And she questions it every single night, as if I never did it before.

I am one of the best sleepers in the world. I am not bragging about that, it is because of a problem that I sleep so well. When my snoring reached levels which were causing serious hearing impairment to neighbors and passers by, my wife made me take a sleep study at Seton Hospital. There are a number of things worse than a sleep study, colonoscopy probably qualifies, but sleep studies are pretty awful none the less. They shave you and put gook all over your body and hook you up with wires which restrict your movement and record all body functions during the night.They leave lights on and tramp about the room and the hallway, then tell you to go to sleep. And I did.

The next morning they had a study which showed that I had fallen asleep in under ten seconds. Honest to God, under ten seconds. See, I'm a great sleeper I bragged.All that noise, goop, equipment and restrictions of movement and I nodded right off. No, they replied, this is a bad thing, a very, very bad thing. It turns out that no normal person falls asleep that fast, at least no one outside of an old Bogart movie ,where a Mickey has been slipped, as they say.I was falling asleep that fast because I was exhausted.Why was I exhausted ? Because I was not sleeping. huh ? Turns out that I was having sleep apnea events (not breathing) several thousand times a night and my not breathing was waking me up. So even though I thought that I was sleeping, I was not. This explained why I always fell asleep in the early morning while driving from Austin to Houston. It did not explain why I had not been killed yet, but maybe that was coming up.

So after a brief visit with a physician, it was decided to put me on a c-pap maching (continous air pressure) which meant that I had a Darth Vadar costume for every Halloween after that. It also meant that I could never get divorced because ,as the Dr. explained to me, "Wade, these are not the most romantic things you have ever seen." Unless you are a robot, I'm afraid that he is right.So for the past decade my poor wife had had to sleep next to a c-pap machine with a husband attached to it. Do they make noise,? yes. do thing come apart at night ? yes. Do they send out warning beeps when something goes wrong ? Why, yes they do. In short they are an insomniacs worst nightmare. But still, I am told, they are better than my snoring was.

So now when I sleep, I really sleep. The sleep beloved from pole to pole, if Coleridge if to be believed, and I don't know why he should be, but there it is. I can't sleep at all without the machine because now ,when I stop breathing, I know that I stop breathing and I wake up.That's why I'm still alive. Everytime my wife has pulled the plug, I have awaked. Fresh as a Daisy.


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