Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

August 27, 2013

Diagnosis: Murder!

Filed under: fitter/happier — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 4:51 pm

(NB: murder is not the diagnosis. I have not been diagnosed with murder, which is any case is not a medical condition. I apologise unreservedly for my attention-grabbing and nearly irrelevant title.)

The sleep news is in, and it’s not too bad, if not exactly good. “Moderately severe” sleep apnoea. Even though I am not suffering from the sort of arrested breathing that keeps a bedmate awake at night in tense anticipation that the next breath may never come, I’m still not doing it right. I vaguely recall there’s an idiom to the effect that a simple task is as easy as breathing. It turns out there’s a sliding scale involved, and I’m on the tilting end of it.

For yet to be determined biomechanical reasons, my breathing during slow wave sleep is inefficient. Which is to say, during non-REM sleep I wake up for brief periods as often as a few times every minute. The waking is rarely shocking enough to bring me fully to consciousness. I don’t open my eyes, I don’t remember waking up. My blood-oxygen saturation is low – like “badly out-of-shape sitcom character hyperventilating through a Zumba class” low.

Every morning I wake up after what feels like it should have been a full night’s sleep and I am already dopey-tired. It takes a couple of hours before I am fully awake on the days that I manage to clear that bar – there aren’t too many of them at the moment – and by lunchtime my head is spinning and I am ready for a nap.

You can see all this on the ECG readouts from the sleep lab. My sleep pattern looks eerily like the graphical representation of a disk drive in urgent need of defragmentation. You can also see it in my face, where the usual bags under my eyes have gone to a luggage wholesaler and picked up some really good deals on eye-bags. Or something. I dunno if my analogies are making much sense at the moment.

I’ve started preparatory treatment to clean upy sinuses as a first step – steroid sprays and saline drenching every day for a month, followed by another consultation to decide on next steps. Which could be more sleep monitoring, a CPAP mask designed to force air down my throat, a mandible retainer designed to force my jaw forward (opening up my oesophagus) or surgery to correct the deviated septum I’ve had all my life.

Yeah, none of those options sound great, do they? But they’re all better than feeling hammered all day every day.

So, onward. Pass me the squeeze bottle for nasal saline injections and stand back, yo.


July 30, 2013

Each day drags by / Until finally my time descends on me

Filed under: fitter/happier,news of the day — Tags: — lexifab @ 4:21 pm

I wasn’t too alert at the time, so I don’t remember which I noticed first, the “cheap hotel” vibe or the bundles of wiring hanging on the wall. The outer reception area of the sleep clinic had a reassuringly stark professional modernity but behind each of the six doors was a tiny, shabby bedroom with a collection of antique monitoring devices with a medical design aesthetic straight out of the early nineties. I chose to interpret that as a good sign, reassuring evidence that they’ve been doing this forever and that my petty little condition would present no diagnostic challenge whatsoever.

So the thing about monitoring a patient’s sleep patterns is that there’s a lot to keep track of – brain activity, lung pressure, blood oxygen levels, eye movement, leg movement, breathing rates and so on. All of that adds up to rather a lot of monitoring devices – expansion bands for the chest and stomach, tubes secured near the nose and mouth, a compression clamp on one finger (that one hurt!) and wired electrodes absolutely everywhere, stuck down with masking tape and a paste not unlike builder’s plaster. On top of that there were two cameras (one regular, one infra-red) and, suspended from the ceiling on a bit of bent wire, an incongruously low-tech mercury thermometer.

Before I got to all that I had to take a test to determine the extent to which my hopeless sinuses would fail to contribute to nasal breathing. This turned out to involve shoving plugs up my nostrils and attempting to breathe with my mouth closed. Understand that this is something I can almost never do (thanks, stupid sinuses!) and Friday night proved no exception. “You mostly breathe through your mouth,” observed Michael the Sleep Technician, a friendly and warm sort of chap who spoke with a calm voice and was not asking a question in that moment. We both agreed that I would do my best to nose-breathe but it was silently understood that I would stop doing that the moment I started to turn red and making choking noises.

“We’ll be just outside monitoring your sleep patterns,” Michael the Sleep Technician told me. He explained about the stages of sleep to distract me while he applied a somewhat brutal exfoliating cream before he secured electrodes to my head, face, neck, chest and legs. Each one was attached to a spaghetti-thin cable and jacked into a machine that conspicuously failed to go ‘ping’. There were about twenty of them in all. I felt like I was being wired up for a motion-capture performance, but alas I am not Andy Serkis and nobody wants to see me cavort in a leotard. Small blessings, I suppose.

Michael the Sleep Technician left me to my own devices, cheerfully suggesting that I just go to sleep in my own time. I climbed into a bed which was small but might have been comfortable had I not been attached to the pingless device by quite so many wires. I read for a while, until general fatigue turned to “I have no idea what the last two pages were all about”. I put the book down, turned off the light and tried to sleep.

I failed. For about four or five hours, if my near-expert familiarity with insomnia was any judge. The electrodes attached to my (hairy) legs itched. The metal humidity sensor taped to my top lip had sharp, annoying edges. The tubes pointed at my nostrils poked me every time I moved. And then there was that bunch of hard plastic patches glued to my face. They were kind of irritating.

I tried rolling into a more comfortable sleeping position – there wasn’t one. I tried controlled breathing to slow myself down and put myself out – it didn’t work. I have no clear recollection of it but I may in desperation have tried to count sheep. If I did, count me unimpressed with horseshit folk remedies.

Since the technicians outside the room were monitoring me the whole time they presumably knew that I was awake. You’d think the least they could do would be to pipe in some soothing lounge jazz or a waterfalls-and-crystal-chimes soundtrack to bore me unconscious, but no.

I fell asleep eventually. I must have done, because someone woke me up at a quarter to six. Nadine the Sleep Technician, replacing a mysteriously vanished Michael, methodically removed the electrodes, straps, clips, tape and hairs and gave me a questionnaire to fill out.

“Was this a better sleep than usual, about the same or worse than usual?” “Do you feel refreshed or tired?” “Did you wake up with a headache?” The questionnaire asked me to circle a response. Sensibly they did not provide room for explanatory comments.

After that I had a complimentary juice box and walked out into the freezing pitch darkness of a Canberra winter morning in a deserted business park. I was tired. Part of my hair and face were sticky.

It takes about four weeks to analyse the results. I’ll talk to a specialist and I hope I’ll find out what’s going on with my fatigue levels. In the meantime, if you see me, try to give off energetic thoughts. Or just stab me with a syringe full of caffeine. That might work too.

July 24, 2013

Think of the tender things that we were working on

Filed under: fitter/happier — Tags: — lexifab @ 4:49 pm

I haven’t been sleeping well.

By that I don’t mean what people usually mean when they say that. For the past three weeks I’ve been going out of my way to make sure that I’m getting a full night’s sleep. I’ve been trying to keep to a consistent sleep routine, going to sleep and getting up at roughly the same times each day, kids permitting. I’ve mostly cut out caffeine after lunch. I’ve almost completely lost my appetite for alcohol. I’m exercising enough. I’m not eating too much junk food and useless carbs. I mean, I’m not observing all these rules with an ecstatic fervour, but I am tightening up some lifestyle habits.

But I’m not sleeping well. The sleep, even when I have a full,unbroken night of it, isn’t working. Most days, I’m not waking up rested and refreshed, I’m waking up up sore, cranky and bleary. Most days, that feeling passes for an hour or two after I have a slug of coffee. For a narrow period during the morning, I can think straight, express myself clearly and keep my eyes open.

That window of lucidity slams closed around lunchtime, maybe as late as two in the afternoon. Lately, more and more often, it doesn’t open again. I feel hammered. Dull witted. Sleepy. If I sit down somewhere comfortable any time between about two and six pm, there’s a good chance I’ll nod off. More than once I’ve handed driving responsibilities over to someone else because I didn’t feel alert enough to be safe. The way I’ve been describing it is that it feels like eleven o’clock at night, all the time.

This hasn’t been good for writing. Most of my writing time comes at lunchtime (which is not usually more than ten or fifteen minutes) and after eight at night, when the kids are in bed. For the past month or so, I’ve turned into a zombie by eight. I can just about function if I have to do some straightforward physical household chore like (simple) cooking or washing up. Strangely, I can do the monthly tax reconciliation, probably because despite its complexity, it’s a routine task that has become ingrained. I can even read without too much difficulty, although my stamina for following words on a page is not what it should be.

I can’t write. I can’t hold a thought still long enough to form a coherent sentence. Most of the times I’ve tried, I can’t even form particularly incoherent sentences. I just can’t think of things to type.

Progress on the novel goes slowly, then. I’m not going to make my deadline for the critiquing group, it’s pretty safe to say. Even with the three weeks I still have up my sleeve I have no realistic expectation that I can pick up the pace again enough to hammer out the concluding chapters. The rest of the group will be understanding, I’m sure, but it’s disappointing all the same.

But that’s enough of the whinging. Next time I do this, I’ll talk about what I’m doing to fix myself up.

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