I have terrible sleep. It makes me feel drained, puts me in a bad mood and gives me (gasp!) under eye bags. So, being the Pitta gal that I am, I decided to decode my insomnia and go to a sleep clinic. My logic is that if I can understand something, I can fix it. A few clients of mine have done a sleep clinic and said that it was really useful. One of them told me that they discovered her sleep apnea, which totally changed her life with a new ability to focus and retain information (gimme some of that please!). The other facial client of mine said that the clinic revealed to her that she wakes up every three minutes without even knowing it – this shocker really helped her know how bad her sleep quality was.
As you probably know, sleep is important to maintaining our body’s (and skin’s) health. While we sleep plays a role in tissue regeneration, hormone regulation and detoxification. It even has a part in how quickly we age. You can read about our circadian rhythms and “master clock” and how it relates to skin aging here! One of the first things I chat about with clients who are suffering from acne, rosacea or premature aging. So, as you can see, I take sleep very seriously and its incredibly frustrating that I get a good night’s rest.
A sleep clinic is a strange place and I’m going to outline everything to you so that if you do a sleep clinic, you’ll have a better experience than I did. I went to one in the hospital district on University, but my clients have all raved about the one in Toronto Eastern. I should have taken there advice. While the rooms themselves were fine – actually a lot homier than I imagined – the set up was horrible for insomniacs like myself. Not only is it really noisy with street cleaners, traffic and beeping noises coming from I-don’t-know-where, but the lit up skyscrapers in this part of town shine through the windows brightly. Learn from my mistakes and pick a room without a window! I didn’t know and picked one with a window, which made for awful sleep. Also, for some crazy reason, they chose blinds with a loose weave so that there were tiny holes in them making them completely see through. It was kind of ironic because the bedside table reading provided is a book about getting better sleep. It has tips to do this, and had suggestions like “block out light with curtains” and “remove electrical items or appliances emitting light in your room like back-lit clocks” – but there were all sorts of lights in my room and I was hooked up to machines and devices that glowed with bright red illumination. You’d think that these experts would provide eye pillows and ear plugs (some feedback I haughtily gave the doctor who analyzed me results).
It took me almost a hour to be prepped for bed because they hook you up to machines and stick wires all over you. They even put some gummy stuff in my scalp to attach electrodes to read my brain waves, making me feel half cyborg. This makes it really uncomfortable to sleep. You can really move around or sleep on your side because you have chords jutting into your hip or wires that are too short to reach when you toss and turn. I especially hates the pulse monitor they attached to my finger that pinched my pointer and glowed with orange light. I felt like the glow was inescapable and even when I put my head under the covers to shield my eyes from the lit up buildings, all I could see was a wash of orange – ugh!
When you finally do get settled, they make you fill out a questionnaire that seems to take forever and inform you that they’ll be watching you over cameras for the night. Because its overnight work, the staff aren’t in the best mood as you are the reason they’ll be skipping their own zzzzs that evening. But the fun doesn’t begin until they ask you to do a series of things over a scratchy P.A system. Its kind of scary being in a dark room as a gruff voice tells you to breathe loudly, fake snoring, point and flex your toes and other odd exercises. I think it may be because nobody really explained to me what was going to happen so I was startled when they just turned off the lights then started ordering me over the intercom in the dark.
Well, I had the worst night’s sleep ever. I had went to bed at 10:30pm but didn’t fall asleep until 2am. Then they wake you up at 5am because they want you out so that the staff can go home (totally understandable). But this meant I got three hours of sleep and felt like death. Beyond death – I was so exhausted my heat was having intense palpitations. Luckily, I did my sleep clinic with Ben (in separate rooms of course) and we both drove home and got a couple more hours of sleep in before work.
About two weeks later we came in for our follow up consultation, which I thought was impressively quick. Our doc informed Ben that he has sleep hynopnea, which is a mild case of sleep apnea. This means that his breathing is impaired and explains why he chokes in his sleep, which also wakes him up and interrupts it multiple times per night. The interesting thing is that Ben, and many other people, wake up many times during their sleeping period but don’t even notice it – they just wake up not feeling rested. The doctor suggested trying to sleep only on his side and recommended devices like “wear a backpack to bed” to force him to remain in this position. Ben still hasn’t done this as he thinks the backpack will make him uncomfortable and result in poor sleep nonetheless. We’re still working on solutions.
For me, the doctor said that I’m a classic insomniac. He said I fell asleep really late and woke up many times during the night – double whammy. But I didn’t really get many solutions besides “try taking a bath before bed” and “get really good curtains” (to which I pointed out their flimsy window dressing). I was a bit annoyed because I assume every insomniac in the modern age has already found these suggestions on Google. But he did also recommend more routine, which I can take on board. He said I need to be anal about when I go to bed and when I rise. Even if I don’t fall asleep until 3am (which often happens), I’m still supposed to get up at 7am if that’s my decided rise time. Its about regularity. And wouldn’t you know, my New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to have more routine. This will temper my Vata and reduce stress. He also said I could try taking melatonin but didn’t tell me how much or from what brand, so I’ll be doing some research into this. Lastly, he said that if I do wake up in the middle of the night as I have in the past, I should get up instead of being frustrated in bed. He said that I should read something really boring like the phone book (who keeps a phone book these days?) or a book about how to get better sleep. I thought that was hilarious – isn’t that supposed to be useful, enlightening and compelling?
Despite my sassy remarks in this post, I do think going to a sleep clinic is worthwhile. I got some decent information and know a little more about my sleeping patterns. I think Ben has a more profound discovery than I did, making it more valuable. Now, if he can only find a backpack fit for napping, we could pack a bottle of melatonin and a copy of that doctor’s book in it. We’d be prepared to get rid of those eye bags 🙂