Flash in the Pan


A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

I Thought I Was Asleep


by Catherine Montague

When the attendant woke me up, I was surprised that it was only 6 a.m. Last night when I checked in at the Sleep Institute, I'm sure she must have mentioned how early she would wake me. It felt weird to get into bed with sensors attached to my face, scalp, arms, legs, and body, with an infrared camera recording my nocturnal tosses and turns, and I forgot the minor detail of when this observation was scheduled to end.

The attendant unhooked most of the long, trailing wires attached to the sensors, which all night long had communicated my vital information to recording devices in the sleep laboratory. She said she'd be right back with a survey form for me to record my feelings of drowsiness or alertness. I got out of bed carefully, some of the wires still decorating my head and upper body, thin strands of grey and white and pink and green like a high-tech Medusa's hairdo. I got out my notebook and quickly wrote down details about the room, the sensors and wires, a vivid dream, and the one time during the night when I knew for sure that I was awake.

The only dream I recalled woke me up hard. It was a long series of scenes ending up in a warehouse-like secondhand store. I looked at rows of clothes and shoes, most of it children's. There was a bed for me in one section, but when I got onto it someone handed me a snake! It was pale and sleepy, but it bit me. I flung it away and it started to decay immediately. I woke up and after perhaps forty-five minutes turned on the bedside light. The attendant came to unhook me, and I got up to go down the hall to the bathroom. I avoided looking at myself in the mirror. I've learned over the past several years not to wake myself up too much when I get out of bed in the night. After the attendant reattached the wires, it took me a while to fall asleep again. I was curious to see how the reports from all those sensors would compare to my subjective impression that I had been awake for at least an hour in the middle of the night.

I didn't have time to write much in my notebook: here she was again, with the survey on a clipboard. I quickly answered the questions and gave her the form. After she helped me take off the remaining wires and sensors, I packed up my things and checked out. I drove home enjoying the sunrise.

Three weeks later my results came in the mail. My study was from 10:22 p.m. to 5:02 a.m. My total sleep time was 219 minutes. I had 109 abnormal respiratory events and frequent repetitive stereotypical leg movements. My sleep onset latency was 7.8 minutes, I had prolonged awakening between 1:20 a.m. and 3:51 a.m., and my sleep efficiency was 53%.

Now I know why I'm so tired when I wake up in the morning!

Catherine Montague writes from Sebastopol, CA, where she has finally managed to sleep eight hours each night, with the help of some new-fangled technology.

Eighth Flash


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