Life

Sleeping is an Investment

Kevin has always had sleep issues. For as long as I’ve known the man, he has never slept very well. He’s been a walking zombie for the past 23 years.

So over the years, we’ve worked on eliminating external triggers – background noise, no background noise, running fans, installing an air conditioner, covering every last pinpoint of light up with duct tape. (true story).

Kevin has tried alternating his diet – only drinking coffee in the morning, only having a splash of coffee in the afternoon, eating cereal right before bed, not eating right before bed, eating peanut butter sandwiches before bed, drinking a glass of water, (which makes him get up in the middle of the night to pee), not drinking a glass of water, (which makes him wake up with a headache and parched), and I can’t even tell you the combination of herbs and vitamins he first takes, then doesn’t take, to see if that has any impact on his sleep.

It’s become a running joke between us: “I think I’ve figured out why I’m not sleeping!” he’ll say with such hope and enthusiasm it’s almost painful to watch because I know it’ll inevitably fail, (which is does), and he’ll be right back to square one.

I had a few theories, but he wouldn’t listen to me – he wanted to exhaust every other possibility on his own first before he would reach the point where he was ready to accept help.

Finally, FINALLY, after exhausting every avenue, after trying everything short of standing on his head and leaning ever so slightly to the left, the man had had enough and he went to a sleep clinic. He did the whole spending the night thing, and when the results came back, I couldn’t help but preen a little.

I had been right. I guessed he had sleep apnea and he does. I would listen to him breathe at night and there were times he would simply stop breathing. Sometimes for so long that I would raise up on one elbow to watch him and be ready to spring into action if he didn’t resume breathing. (Though I have no idea what I would have done – I don’t have any medical training to speak of and aside from dealing with premature apnea with Dude and gently shaking him back to earth, I wouldn’t know what else to do).

Finding out that he had sleep apnea was a turning point. He now wears a mask at night and whenever he stops breathing, the machine will inject massive pockets of air into his lungs which makes up for the lack of oxygen his body needs whenever he stops breathing on his own. It’s also wiped out his snoring problem.

Whenever we went on vacation or went camping, and had to all share the same sleeping space with each other, I had to make sure to bring earplugs with me because the boys and I couldn’t sleep over his snoring. The volume was bad enough, but what really drove us crazy was the consistency, or lack of consistency, I should say. Sometimes he would snore softly, sometimes loudly. Sometimes he would abruptly snort. And it ALWAYS happened whenever we were on the verge of falling asleep so that when he let a snore loose, it was loud enough and startling enough to make us jerk back awake.

It was a nightmare. Seriously.

But now that he wears that mask at night, he doesn’t snore anymore. It eliminated that problem.

Unfortunately, it didn’t eliminate his sleeping problems.

He still wakes up at 3:00, on the dot, to either go to the bathroom, to grab something to drink, sometimes to eat something because he’s RAVENOUS, or he’s simply wide awake. And instead of getting up to go read, he will stubbornly lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour, or two before he falls back into a fitful doze until morning light.

It’s always worse when he is stressing over something. I tell him he doesn’t know how to shut his brain off. Sometimes he will wake up in the middle of the night and a solution to a problem, that had been eluding him for days, will suddenly pop into his head. So I KNOW that on some level, he’s constantly thinking about stuff. We have no idea how to make him shut his brain off. But it’s not for lack of trying all sorts of stuff, I assure you.

Now me, on the other hand, I can fall sleep anywhere for any length of time. I don’t have a problem falling asleep, I don’t have a problem staying asleep, PROVIDED the world stops spinning and nothing happens around me. I’m a very light sleeper – everything wakes me up. A sneeze, a cough, someone shifting position in bed, a barking dog (GRR – our neighbor dogs drive me nuts sometimes), the house shifting, an animal scratching the house (which – CREEPY), a noisy car, loud rain … you name it. If it happens anywhere within ear shot, it wakes me up. So even though I go to sleep fast, I wake up about 50 times a night (which might explain why I’m tired all the time, now that I think about it. Duh).

But still. I have it easier than Kevin. Even though I have my own sleep issues, I still get more sleep than he does. And I always have. So when we broke down about nine years ago and bought a sleep number bed, I gave in. I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but hey, whatever it took to give the man his sleep, I was all for it.

I hated that bed. I never slept well in it. I would routinely wake up with various parts of my body completely numb – namely my pinky. And because Kevin would shift around, it would cause my side of the bed to move so it would wake me up. Finally, I ended up buying an air mattress and slept in the living room – FOR YEARS. Seriously. Kevin and I just slept better apart.

He loved the sleep number bed. In fact, he would let so much air out of his side of the bed it was like he was sleeping on a hammock. I, on the other hand, like it firm. Almost rock hard firm. It’s just better for my back. So the sleep number bed really did suit our individual needs. And sleeping in the living room wasn’t that big of a deal because we all went to bed at the same time (more or less) and it was dark and quiet. No problem.

But about two years ago, something shifted with the bed. It became a lot more uncomfortable and I could hardly stand to sleep on it. Still. I endured it for Kevin’s sake because he was still loving the bed. (I’m such a martyr, aren’t I? HA!) And sleeping out in the living room was becoming an issue because our sons don’t go to bed as early as we do now, so they would be up and though they would be quiet, I was such a light sleeper that I just wouldn’t fall asleep until they did.

Kevin and I have talked about getting a new bed for a few years now, but we never did anything about it. We had heard good things about Temper-pedic and thought if we ever went bed shopping, we’d check one out.

We went and checked one out yesterday.

When the mattress salesman found out how long Kevin and I have been sleeping on a sleep by number (nine years), he actually cringed.

Our old, lumpy sleep by number mattress

I couldn’t say I blamed him. Our bed was so used it was misshapen and lumpy and HELLO, it’s no wonder we weren’t sleeping very well.

We checked out the temper-pedics. We didn’t even look at the pillow tops. I knew those were probably too soft for Kevin and besides, I had heard that after a few years, the pillow top started looking lumpy and misshapen and that was one of the things that drove me the most nuts about our sleep by number – it just looked hideous after it was made. One side was lower than the other side and I hated how it looked. Which doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of people but the small OCD part of me just couldn’t stand it.

(I have no idea if I have OCD, I’m self-diagnosing myself because of some of the things that drive me nuts and that I must correct AT ALL COSTS OR HEADS WILL ROLL).

After figuring out that the medium was the right one for us, we took a look at the price tag … and nearly fainted. We were on a mission to get some sleep but not for that price!

Our pale faces must have alerted the salesman because he then directed our attention to the iComforts by Serta. They were half the price of the Temper-pedic and just as good (with a longer warranty). We tested them out and decided on the medium.

They delivered our mattress yesterday afternoon. (Did I mention we BOUGHT the thing yesterday afternoon? Yeah. This place rocked the customer service).

New iComfort Mattress

It looks hard, but the salesman warned us that it would feel a little more firm than what we wanted for a few weeks until it was worn in. He also suggested we take our shoes off and walk on it a few times as well as that helps loosen it up.

IMG_0953

(hehe – I couldn’t resist posting this one).

The thought of putting our old bedding set on our new mattress sort of grossed me out, so Kevin and I went to JCPenney Home Store and Bed, Bath and Beyond to look for a new set. We found this at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

IMG_0959
(I know it’s wrinkly – I’m too lazy to use the steamer. They’ll work themselves out sooner or later. HA!)

I really like it, but I wish the skirt was a different color – there is too much gray. (Which, you can’t tell by this picture, but trust me – GRAY). I’ll probably try and find a purple-ish skirt to break up that gray.

What was really cool about this bed set though, was that it came with two Euro pillow shams and two decorative pillows. I can’t believe they haven’t been including the decorative pillows before now! It’s so hard to find anything that matches your set and individual pillows are so expensive. Anyway, I was thrilled and I’m ordering two Euro pillows from Wal-mart.com today. I hadn’t even HEARD of Euro pillows before yesterday. But I’m looking forward to putting it all together when they arrive.

How was our first night sleeping on it, you ask? (Thanks for asking!) Pretty good. Though our metal frame is too flimsy and off balance to support it, so every time Kevin or I shifted, it was like trying to sleep on a raft in the middle of the ocean. It woke me up several times and by 4:00 o’clock, I was wide awake. I ended up dozing on the couch until 6:00 a.m. (I don’t think waking up at 4:00 a.m was because of the mattress but because today was the first day of school and I’m always afraid I’ll oversleep and always tend to get up way early).

Kevin called the mattress place and they’re going to sell us a more sturdy frame. We’ll pick it up today and hopefully that will take care of the wobbling problem.

We’re a little concerned about it being too firm, but the guy did warn us about that. He said after a month, if it still feels too firm/soft, to let him know and we could exchange it for the one we wanted. I’m optimistic though, I think once it wears in a bit, it’s going to be really comfortable. It’s comfortable now, just a little too firm.

Let’s hope we invested in a bed that we can actually sleep in this time!

P.S. In case you’re wondering what the difference is between a Temper-pedic and an iComfort (aside from the price, of course) – the iComfort has “cool action“, which is supposed to help keep the foam cooler.

Life

Fighting the Battle to Sleep (The Results)

You know, you don’t REALLY appreciate how messed up our health care system is until you have to deal with it.

And though it’s messed up, and we have to jump through hoops in order to get things done, it’s STILL better than if we turned it over to the government to completely muck up. It’s flawed, but at least it works — sort of.

*holds up hands in surrender gesture* I’m just saying.

(If you need to catch up, you can read this post about his sleeping problems and this post about his sleep clinic experience [it’s worth a click over just to see him all hooked up with wires. It’s crazy, man]).

We finally got Kevin’s sleep study results back.

Actually, I need to be fair to the clinic. We got his results back after about a week.

His scores were off the chart.

Which, I knew they would be.

Only, his results weren’t all that typical. Yes, he has sleep apnea, but it only kicks in when he reaches REM sleep. He’s fine until he reaches that stage and then he simply stops breathing, wakes himself up, can’t make himself go right back to sleep and *BEEP BEEP BEEP* his alarm is going off and it’s time to start the day.

The sleep clinic people were supposed to wake him up and put him on a cpap machine whenever his apnea kicked in, but they never did. And we’re thinking they never had time, because by the time his apnea kicked in, he was in REM and he woke himself up too fast for them to jump in and help him.

Okay, so now what? His doctor prescribed a cpap machine to see if that would help him sleep through the night. So, we put in a request for a machine through the medical supply store and we waited to hear back from them.

And we waited.

And we waited.

Finally, Kevin had to start round one of about 100 to get the ball rolling on obtaining a cpap machine.

After playing musical phone calls, (ya’ll know what I’m talking about – the frustrating stage where they tell you they can’t help you, direct you to another person who also can’t help you and then it’s ultimately back to the doctor because did he actually PRESCRIBE the machine? And yes he did and then we’re being transferred back to the original person who now has a question on whether our insurance will cover it or not. So Kevin has to call and confirm with the insurance company TWICE that yes indeed-y they will cover it and can we have our damn machine now?), we finally get an appointment for him to come in and learn how to use the machine.

GRR. See? Utter chaos. Our health care system is messed up. It really DOES need a complete overhaul, (relax restrictions, allow interstate policies, encourage competition so we can get these insane prices down, etc.) without the government sticking it’s greedy, incompetent hands in the middle of it, thank you very much.

Sorry. Sore subject with me.

Anyway, Kevin gets an appointment and he shows up to learn how to use the machine they are going to assign him. He said there were about two or three other guys there getting their own machines, but he was the only one who had a different machine.

Naturally.

Since his apnea only kicks in when he’s in REM sleep, they needed a machine that would sense that and … do whatever it is that it needs to do to help him regulate his breathing.

He came home and tried it.

Again, he was such a good sport – he allowed me to take his picture when he got all hooked up.

Sleep Mask
(Love you sweetie!)

It looks terribly uncomfortable, but he insists that it’s actually not too bad.

In essence, it’s a mask-like contraption that goes into each nostril and pumps moisturized air (from distilled water) into his lungs. The machine is supposed to sense, and adjust, to his breathing whenever he goes into apnea.

The first night he tried it, it fell off and he woke up at 3:00, as usual. The next night, it stayed on, but he still woke up at 3:00 (WTH?), but he said he went right back to sleep (as opposed to just lying there for an hour or so). So, he’s thinking he woke up from habit and not from his apnea.

He says it’s really weird, there is so much air being pumped into his lungs that it’s hard for him to exhale, so we’re thinking the setting is too high (we can’t adjust the setting, it has to be done by the medical supply people).

In fact, he can open his mouth and feel the air coming out. Instead of snoring, he now makes this little baby-like raspberry sound. (It’s actually pretty funny!)

He hasn’t been too impressed with it at this point, but it’s still early and he’s still getting used to it, so we’ll see. He did try to loosen it a bit the other night and he said that seemed to help him to not feel quite so overwhelmed, but overall, it doesn’t seem to be helping him that much.

He’s still waking up. But he’s waking up with clear sinus passages and he says he can actually smell things again.

In fact, the thing that seems to help him the most is taking Tylenol PM. And I’m assuming that’s because it has pseudoephedrine in it and forces his sinuses to open up so he can breathe.

I don’t know. The machine is supposed to be keeping track of his progress, so when he goes back in a few weeks, they can either adjust the settings or suggest something else.

It’s disappointing, to say the least. We really had high hopes that this machine would be the answer to his sleep problems. And though it’s certainly helped and it’s nice to know, for sure, what the problem is, it’s still maddening that he’s still not getting a decent night’s sleep.

Poor guy. He’s so tired (pun intended) of being a walking zombie all the time.

The sleep battles aren’t quite over yet.

Life

Fighting the Battle to Sleep (The Clinic)

If I’ve ever doubted Kevin’s feelings about my blogging, I don’t have to doubt them anymore —

He took a picture of himself all hooked up at the sleep clinic last night so that I could blog about it.

Have I mentioned lately how much I ADORE this man!??!

(I love his expression in this picture. He’s 1/3 tired, 1/3 apprehensive and 1/3 embarrassed. Poor guy).

If you’ve missed out on what’s going on, Kevin has sleep issues. He’s had them for like … forever. Seriously, he can’t remember a time in his entire life that he HASN’T had sleep problems. He’s tried all sorts of diet combinations, adjusted his sleep hours, changed his sleep venue and nothing has worked.

He finally threw in the towel this past month and went to see a sleep specialist.

When he described his symptoms (waking up with headaches, stuffy nose, not being able to go back to sleep), the doctor thought it might be sleep apnea.

Which I’ve been telling him he has for years.

But to accurately figure out what is going on, they needed to observe him while asleep.

So, last night, he reported to sleep duty.

He was not allowed to drink any coffee after noon. This also meant, he couldn’t have any chocolate because it had caffeine in it. He also had to shave so the sensors would stick to his face.

And of course, he couldn’t take a nap. Which was really hard because he had a gig Saturday night and didn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning.

At 7:15 p.m., he packed an overnight bag with his “jammies” (he doesn’t really have jammies, *ahem* but he had to WEAR something), his toothbrush/toothpaste, some reading material and his glasses.

He was not allowed to take his cell phone (because of the distraction).

He arrived at the clinic and read a sign to go downstairs. He signed up and then sat down to await his name to be called.

When it was his turn (he said there were about nine rooms and seven of them were being used — a lot of people must have sleep problems!), they settled him into his room. They told him to put on his sleep clothes and when he was ready, to open the door.

The nurse then came in and started hooking him up to the wires. He said the nurse asked him why he was so tan; he told her that we had just gotten back from vacation.

Which is true, but that’s not the reason he’s so tan. We tan — together. Well, not together (though that would probably be more fun *ahem*) but we go to the tanning salon together. I don’t know why he’s so embarrassed to tell people that. A lot of guys tan.

I tan. WE tan. What’s the big deal?! (And he will die that I just told ya’ll that).

Anyway, he was then told to take his sleeping pill, which he did, and when he got sleepy, to press a button to let them know that he was ready to go to sleep.

He took a Lunesta started getting really groggy by about 10:30. So, he pressed the button and the lights went out. A voice then came over a speaker right above him and asked him to move his eyes first one way, then the other, to cough, to clear his throat, to take deep breaths, to hold his breath, etc., so they could test to make sure the connections were working.

Then, he fell asleep.

He says that he actually slept pretty good, of course. (Figures — it’s like when your car starts acting funny and you take it to the mechanic but the stupid thing works perfectly for him and he looks at you like you’re nuts).

I mean, I’m glad the man slept, but well, I was expecting him to stop breathing at some point in the night and they would have to come in and put him on a cpap machine so that he could get back to sleep.

And voila! His sleep problem would be solved. He would sleep and be happy, we’d all hold hands, sing Kumbaya and a huge rainbow would appear over our house.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have any problems. He did wake up at 4:00 a.m., which is “normal” for him. He laid in his bed for an hour before the tech came in and asked him if he was ready to get up.

It sort of freaked him out that they KNEW he was awake, you know?

So, he said yes, got up, got dressed, grabbed his stuff, came home, crawled into bed with me, which woke me up, and he went back to sleep while I lay there and tried to go back to sleep for another hour (which didn’t happen, thanks babe).

He’s supposed to find out his results in two weeks. Whatever happens, sleep apnea or not, I hope they’re able to help the man.

It sucks when you can’t sleep.

Life-condensed

Fighting the Battle to Sleep

sleep-apnea2 I have a confession — I haven’t slept with my husband in over two years.

And when I do have, er, GET to sleep with him, I wear ear plugs.

I have to. The man snores something FIERCE.

I’ve known Kevin for 21 years, and in that 21 years, he has never slept very well. He can fall asleep okay, but it’s staying asleep that seems to be the problem.

As a result, he’s a walking zombie. He wakes up tired, he’s sluggish all day and when he drinks any sort of caffeine, it keeps him up and only adds to his existing sleep problems.

I feel sorry for the guy.

He has tried ALL sorts of things over the years to help him sleep better. Different pillows. Air purifiers. Over-the-counter medications. Diet.

Diet.

You wouldn’t believe the hundreds of changes he’s made to his diet over the years. One week, he’ll eat something and is convinced it’s the cure to his sleep problems. The next week, it’ll be something else. The week after that, it’ll be a combination of things. The following week, he’ll cut something out of his diet.

And on and on.

It has gotten to the point that it’s a joke with us now. He’ll comment on having slept really well and it must be (insert reason/food here) and THAT is the reason he hasn’t slept well all these years.

And of course, it’s never the cure.

I’ve been telling him, for years, that he has sleep apnea. And the reason I think this is because I’ve listened to the man at night – he stops breathing for short periods of time and then gasps for air when his reflexes kick in. I don’t think it’s very bad, but it happens often enough that he wakes up two, sometimes three times a night with a headache and blocked sinuses.

The man has a mild case of sleep apnea.

He has pooh-poohed me. He hasn’t wanted to admit to the possibility. And so, various hypotheses have been born over the years.

Finally, dear God finally, he has thrown in the white towel. He’s willing to entertain the thought that maybe, juuuust maybe, he does indeed have some form of sleep apnea.

So we went to the doctor today. I say “we” because his doctor requested his sleep partner to come with him. Though I wasn’t convinced I would be of any help, I haven’t slept with the man in two years, after all, I went with him.

After asking a series of questions and getting my input, the doctor thinks that I may be right — sleep apnea.

They have set up an appointment for him to spend the night in a sleep clinic July 26th. We’ll see what they say.

(But I know I’m right).