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I Can’t Sleep

Volume 3

By Heather DonaldPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 4 min read

I can’t sleep. It’s fucking freezing in here. The kind of cold air that hurts to breathe into my lungs and makes me cold to my bones. The man living here has the A/C set to Polar Vortex. This July has been offensively hot and humid, we’ve had a heat wave so intense that I am uncomfortable and irritated immediately upon going outdoors. I would adjust the temperature of the A/C, however, I know the man living in the house would be apoplectic, his brain would fall out of his skull, immediately freeze and shatter into a million shards on the icy floor. I don’t understand why the air inside needs to be as cold as the Arctic Circle. In the winter, when it is this cold outside we turn up the heat to keep from freezing to death. I’ve adapted, I’m wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a balaclava to bed.

I have a condition called sleep apnea, which causes me to stop breathing if I sleep laying on my back. When this occurs my subconscious provides intensely graphic nightmares about dying of suffocation to wake me up. Sometimes I dream that I’m being buried alive and suffocating under a crushing pile of dirt, or that I’m trapped under ice and I’m drowning, I can’t breathe, I can’t scream, I am voiceless and dying, panicked, and trying to claw my way out. I wake up gasping for air, unable to talk or swallow. The most disturbing death dreams are violent, I'm being raped or murdered, there are people nearby by but I have no voice and I can't scream for help, I wake clutching my throat, unable to breath, and terrified, it takes a few minutes to recover. Credit where credit is due, my subconscious is surprisingly creative, I have died a million unique deaths.

I went to a sleep clinic a few years ago. It’s a really weird experience. Nocturnal Polysomnography is a test used to diagnose sleep disorders. Polysomnography records your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate, and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study. I arrived at the clinic in the evening, assigned a bed, given an opportunity to change into a medical gown, and then ushered to my bed surrounded by the machines and cameras used to collect data. A technician that says absolutely nothing and does not respond to my sparkling attempt at conversation, applied the electrodes and monitoring wires and abruptly left the room. I find it unsettling when someone doesn’t find me irresistibly charming, they are obviously dead inside. 22 electrodes were attached to me via wires to transmit my body functions data to the technicians. They are used for recording data collected by the Electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure your brain activity, Electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure heart rhythm and rate, Electrooculography (EOG) to measure electrical eye movement activity. There are two electrodes for the chin muscle tone, two to measure airflow, two for eye movements, two for leg movements, one for oxygen saturation, two for heart rhythm and rate, and for each belt that measures abdominal wall and chest wall movement. I looked like an alien they were experimenting on. Then a disembodied voice crackled through a speaker to tell me to go to sleep, and immediately clicked off, nothing further, that’s it. I can’t sleep in my bed at home, it’s highly unlikely I’ll sleep with a Kraken of wires entangling my entire body, in a hospital setting with way too much light, the loud whirring and clicking of equipment, cameras very overtly watching me from multiple angles, surrounded by the restless sounds of other people who can’t sleep. All I’m saying is the environment is not in any way conducive to sleeping. The technicians monitored me while I chased sleep and prepared a synopsis of their findings for the specialist who then develops a diagnosis and treatment to help me get better sleep. It was concluded that I don’t sleep well at all, which is the reason I participated in this exercise.

At the follow-up appointment, my doctor reviewed the results with me. We’ve already established that when I lay on my back I stop breathing, which is bad because not breathing will obviously kill you. Based on the data gathered, my specialist diagnosed me with sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and REM sleep behavior disorder. Dr. Sleep’s genius solution to ensure I don’t die in my sleep was for me to sew pockets into the back of my pajama tops and stick a tennis ball in the pocket. The ball effectively renders laying on my back dreadfully uncomfortable, therefore I roll over surviving the night no matter how hard my body tries to murder me. I didn’t do that, it’s ridiculous. I’ve got my subconscious death dreams working for me quite nicely, I haven’t not woken up a single time yet.

Good night.


About the Creator

Heather Donald

I believe in love & kindness, that we should embrace joy, sing, dance & be silly! I am a survivor, damaged but not broken. I have a lot of love to give, free of judgment and given freely because I believe love can heal the world. 💕

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