I’m Dealing with an Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

I'm Dealing with an Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

Dealing with an Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder (via Positively Smitten)

Waking up every day is really, really hard. Sure, that’s what everyone says, but I need about nine hours of sleep in order to feel as though I can function, and often when I wake in the morning I could easily go back to bed for a few hours. And I love naps. Really, really love them.

I don’t have thyroid issues. I’m not a sleepwalker. I’ve had blood-work done and it came back negative for whatever-it-is-that-makes-you-super-tired. I do have depression and anxiety, which can lead to a loss of energy, but my doctor thinks I may actually have those things because I don’t get enough sleep.

When I wake up in the morning, I feel like I can go right back to bed for another few hours. In the middle of the day, even if I limit my caffeine intake, I’m crashing by noon. I like to think I was a cat in my previous life, but then I just get bummed and wonder why I couldn’t have been a cat in this life, because at least then it wouldn’t be a big deal if I slept all the time. (Also, I could throw shade at everyone and people would just say, “that’s how cats are” and I wouldn’t even feel bad.)

When I was younger, I used to fall asleep on the couch at night in the middle of conversations. A few seconds in a moving car, train, or plane and I’m sleeping like a baby. I have trouble watching TV or reading. Sitting through movies is hard, too. On the first date with my now-boyfriend-of-seven-years, I fell asleep on him (literally) during a movie and stayed that way for hours. It was indicative of how we’d spend much of the coming years, but still, it was pretty embarrassing at the time.

At sleepovers, I was always the first to bed, which could have resulted in me waking up with Sharpie drawings on my forehead or finding that I’d wet the bed because my hand was placed in warm water. Thankfully, my friends were kind and let me sleep unharmed.

Because of my chronic sleepiness, I hopped back on the nap train when I was in high school. I was so tired that I just needed rest, no matter how uncool that made me. I’d come home and settle on the couch and not even be able to think about homework until I’d logged a solid hour or so of snoozing.

I kept up with that through college and started napping in public places. The library? Sure! Student union? Well, the couch sure is comfortable. And sometimes I’d fall asleep as early as 8 or 9 p.m. to wake 12 hours later the next day. I wasn’t doing anything particularly exhausting (aside from, you know, earning a college education), but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to do much else.

I always shrugged it off, assuming it was because I stressed too much – about homework and test grades and what my peers thought about me and my appearance.

Entering the “real world” (if watching lots of TV and eating “kid cereal” all the time counts as the real world) and getting a “real” job only made it easier to take naps after work and I totally would. I’d be psyched to get home and sleep. Sometimes I’d be so tired I’d just sleep right through events or plans because my bed was just so comfortable.

Then I realized being tired all the time apparently isn’t something that’s “normal”? It started when I saw a comedy special — Jo Koy started talking about his sleep problems.

Seriously, I called my doctor because of that bit. I was convinced I had sleep apnea! My doctor scheduled a sleep study for me, in three parts, the first of which was an interview. But before I could do that, they made me watch a movie about how sleepy I am. And expected me to stay awake through it. I had to keep pinching myself so I wouldn’t nod off, and then, during my interview, had to deal with the nurse telling me I was “so young!” to be dealing with sleep issues. It just made me really tired.

I'm dealing with an undiagnosed sleep disorder | Positively Smitten

My first sleep study, complete with my teddy bear.

A week later, I was hooked up to a machine by a zillion different cords and they watched me while I sleep. (The literal perfect job for peeping Toms and real-life creepers.) I slept terribly, and felt like Medusa, but I made it.

I waited several weeks for my results only to find out this: “well, the test was inconclusive. Come back after you’ve gone off your anxiety meds for at least three weeks and we’ll do it all again. Sound good?”

Uh, no, that sounded awful. I had to do it, though, because my anxiety meds were delaying my REM cycle, which meant my doctors were unable to tell if there was anything actually wrong with me.

Going off my anxiety meds was not easy, but I did it. On Friday, I had another sleep study. I feel like I’m a pro on sleep studies. Some things it entails:

  • Packing an overnight bag of some sort, including all the items you’ll need to sleep (for me, that means a fan, teddy bear, and my iPhone)
  • Wearing and/or changing into some PJs you aren’t embarrassed to be seen in
  • Filling out paperwork describing your sleepiness, including whether or not you drank coffee, ate/consumed anything with caffeine in it, or took a nap
  • Making small talk with your nurse as he or she hooks you up to wires — a process that takes roughly 30 minutes
  • Giving up entirely on your hair, because it will have paste in it (literally) to hold the wires on your head

    I'm dealing with an undiagnosed sleep disorder | Positively Smitten

    A peek at the contraption that monitors your body’s movements and breathing.

  • Being okay with a stranger touching your body while possibly talking about spaghetti and meatballs (my nurse from Friday did this, but I think he was just trying to be nonthreatening while he put wires all over my body because that’s a very strange experience)
  • Moving, getting into bed, and sleeping while being attached to 20 or more wires
  • Trying to rest knowing that people are watching and listening to you, and also monitoring your every movement
I'm dealing with an undiagnosed sleep disorder | Positively Smitten

Judge me not for my paste-filled hair, but this is how you’d look, too, after a very rough night of sleep, attached to a plethora of wires. Meh.

It’s definitely something you don’t experience every day. But it’s not so bad. I mean… I was invited there to sleep.

  • Easiest. Test. Ever.

The bad news: they wake you up at dawn, and it’s that much harder to wake up because you slept horribly the night before. The good news: you totally get a mint left on your pillow like its a hotel and, if you are staying for further testing (as they thought I might), they buy you breakfast and lunch.

Thankfully, my nurse said this test seemed more conclusive, and guess what her preliminary diagnosis was?

Sleep apnea.

So I pretty much have a comedian to thank for ultimately solving my sleepiness, which makes for kind of a funny story. If the doctors agree with her diagnosis, I’ll have to be fitted with a CPAP machine, which I’ll need to sleep. Not very cute, but I’ll take it.

In the meantime, I’m still tired, and I can’t stop thinking about how excited I’ll be to find out what an honest-to-God good, restful sleep feels like. I don’t care if I’ve got to be hooked up to some crazy looking machine.

I just want to get some rest.

1 Comment

  1. I can’t believe you’ve been having symptoms since you were a kid and it took you this long to get diagnosed! I mean what was your family doctor doing, picking his butt? Regardless, I’m relieved you finally have some answers. Restful sleep is on the horizon, my friend!

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