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Sleep Center Blues

At some point in your 40s, 50s, or 60s you might find yourself scheduled for a sleep center study to determine if you have sleep apnea, or some other sleep irregularity (fortunately my test proved to be negative!) Here is a letter I wrote following my experience which might well shed light on what to expect, especially if you have significantly better than average hearing:

My experience at ‘XYZ’ Sleep Center in January was probably different than most people’s. I checked in at 8:30 pm as scheduled, not knowing that others would be checking in at the same time. It was odd that the Center couldn’t stagger the check-in times such as 8:10, 8:20, 8:30, 8:40, and so on, but that is how they did their business.

Regardless, everything seemed to be proceeding well. I was led down a corridor and given a room. Then I ended up waiting from roughly 8:45 ‘til 10:15 when the attendant came in, wired me up, and I could finally get to bed by 10:35. I was exhausted because, following instructions, I did not take a nap during the day. I really wanted to retire at 9:30, but I hung on for another hour. You know sometimes, when you’re exhausted, and you’re forced to stay up, it actually interferes with your ability to get to sleep.

In the course of a year, usually I’ll fall asleep in three to five seconds on 355 out of 365 days. That night, I quickly fell asleep, actually two or three times, but because the attendants’ talking at the end of the corridor was so loud, they kept waking me. So, I struggled for the first hour. I finally told my attendant, via the room intercom, that I would like them to stop their loud chatter.

Earlier, I had explained that I have super hearing, like a dog; I can hear under five decibels. This sleep lab had taken no precautions for people with outstanding hearing. I could hear every door open and close, and all of the loud door clicks. The toilets in each of the rooms all had ultra-loud flushing, like mine, and I could hear all of them all night long.

I could hear people walking up and down the corridor as I had the only room that faced the long end; everyone else was along the corridor, adjacent to one another.

So, I got exceedingly little sleep compared to my average night. I suppose that between 10:30 pm and 5:00 am, I might have gotten three hours. The reason why I was discharged at 5:00 am is that I told my attendant at about 4:00 am that I wanted to get out as soon as possible. The experience was not good for me, and I would prefer to get home where I could actually go back to sleep. He accommodated me, and I was out by 5:00.

On the departing survey, I told them that they need to take a serious look at what it means to provide sound sleeping quarters. I had done a sleep test at a university sleep center 20 years earlier, and it had a soundproof room in which one heard nothing from the outside in contrast to the XYZ Sleep Center, where it was a house of horrors for me. Had I known in advance, I would have brought earplugs, but I question whether or not that would help.

In short, I will not repeat this process at this facility for any reason. They have the potential, I believe, to better safeguard the sound that enters each room. They also could add, on their pre and post surveys, questions about how well their patients hear. It makes a difference.

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people.