Updated: Sep 19, 2021
(Published by Z Publishing House)
A couple of months ago, weary and desperate from chronic insomnia, I signed up to do a sleep study.Overnight bag in hand, I arrived at the sleep center at 9:00 p.m. sharp, ready to be cured. A nurse showed me to my room and told me to change into pajamas. The technician would need to attach electrodes over them. Ladies were strongly encouraged to wear pajama pants, for obvious reasons. Because bottoms in general are not conducive to my nightly tasmanian-devil-tossing-and-turning, I don't wear any and had to borrow my husband's.
It took the tech about forty minutes to attach countless electrodes to my head, and to various other parts of my body, which all fed into a box.
"This is your purse for the night," he said. "If you need to go to the bathroom, bring it with you. That red light in the wall is a camera through which I will watch you all night. Right here is a speaker we will use to communicate. If you need anything, just speak out loud and I will hear you. Good night." He turned off the lights and walked out of the room.
I nestled into bed, pleased with the warm room temperature since I'm always cold, closed my eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply. Finally, I would find out the cause of my insomnia. I almost drooled thinking about all the good sleeps to come. Mmm.
I felt something land on my head.
"Umm, I think something just fell on my head," I said to my invisible voyeur.
The technician, the nurse and some other woman I hadn't met when first I arrived opened my door and turned on the lights. My eyes involuntarily squinted against the sudden intense brightness. Peeking through one eye I saw the woman I never saw before shine a flashlight above my head.
"What is it?" I asked.
"The room's too humid. There's condensation forming on the ceiling."
"Should I come back another time?"
"If you leave you will be leaving against medical advice and will need to sign a release. I'll call maintenance."
"Umm, okay," I whispered.
I didn't want to be a sissy and run away just because a drop of water fell on my head. Two maintenance men soon appeared with a mop. The small room felt crowded. One of the men started mopping the ceiling above me. Everyone else was watching him mop. The woman with the flashlight was playing the role of lighthouse for the mop navigating my ceiling. I wanted to look up too, but the technician read my mind.
"Don't move please. You will dislodge the electrodes."
The situation was getting tense. Here I was laying in my husband's jammies with electrodes attached to my body, in the middle of my sleep study with five strangers surrounding me. Fearing the end to my insomnia was in jeopardy, I said:
"I've never seen anyone mop a ceiling before."
The maintenance men chuckled and the rest of the visitors relaxed. I saw a hint of a
smile on flashlight lady's face.
"It shouldn't leak anymore, but move to the other side of the bed, just in case," she said. On her way out of the room flashlight lady lowered the AC and turned on the fan.
Taking my "purse" with me I moved as I was told. All my guests left, the lights were turned off and my technician wished me "good night," again. I closed my eyes and tried to relax and suppress any lingering doubts about the leaky ceiling. I struggled to stop the continuing and annoying thought of the ceiling falling on me and crushing my electrode laden skull.
With the thermostat down and the fan blowing cold air in my direction, I started getting cold. I was laying flat on my back with just a thin blanket covering me. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and drew my arms and feet under it, burrito-style, like the way my mom used to tuck me in when I was little. I was happy to have bottoms on for warmth. But they felt restrictive. The slightest movement made them ride up. The more I moved to counteract the wedgie effect, the more invasive they got. Suddenly I got paranoid that the tech would think I was masturbating. I stopped moving.
Once again I inhaled and exhaled deeply and tried to relax.
You've got to be kidding me, I said to myself. With anxiety levels rising I weighed my options. I could tell the technician the ceiling is still leaking and go through the whole circus act again with the mean flashlight lady and the maintenance men with their mop. Or, since the leak is on the other side of the bed, I could suck it up for the rest of the night and finish this cursed sleep study. Clearly the ceiling would continue leaking, mopping be damned. I would have to fall asleep between "plops." I slowly turned on my side in one smooth motion so as not to disturb my burrito blanket and risk dispersing precious body heat. With one ear buried in the pillow the "plop" might be inaudible. I would just have to try not to listen for it.
Meanwhile, the temperature in the room kept dropping. I folded myself into the fetal position for extra warmth. The pajama inseam was by this point deeply imbedded in my crevices. I no longer cared. I prayed for sleep like someone praying for death. I tried to summon my happy places. The first place to pop up was a beach. I was laying on a blanket burying my feet in the soft sand. There was a cool breeze. Seagulls were flying above me. What if they poop on my head? "Change the channel," I commanded my brain. The beach felt too cold anyway. The next happy place was a lush rainforest. I was flying over it. The tree canopy was thick and looked like a plush carpet. I reached out my hand to touch it. Then my mind drifted to the Discovery channel special I recently watched on the Amazon. Bugs the size of large rodents floated into view. I shuddered.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a drop landed on my cheek. I sat straight up, felt some electrodes snap off my head and said: "It's raining on my face." The technician, nurse and flashlight lady flew into my room and turned on the lights.
"What do you want to do?" asked the flashlight lady. Gone was the threatening tone.
"I want to leave."
"Are you sure? We can try moving the bed to the other side of the room. You're already here and it's almost midnight."
"No, I don't feel safe."
"Ok, you will need to sign the release."
"That you're leaving against medical advice."
"Are you serious?! What doctor would advise a patient to lay under a leaking ceiling while electrodes are attached to their head?"
"Sorry, hospital protocol."
"Fine, give me the release."
Worried that my insurance would refuse to pay, I wrote in large capital letters under my signature: "NOT LEAVING AGAINST MEDICAL ADVICE. LEAVING BECAUSE CEILING IS LEAKING ON MY HEAD." Then I threw a legal term in that I hoped would scare the hospital out of billing my insurance: "HAVE BEEN CONSTRUCTIVELY EVICTED."
I handed the release back to flashlight lady and she signaled the technician to unplug me from the monitors. I got dressed, said my goodbyes and drove home in the middle of the night, wondering if the whole thing had been a lucid dream and also worrying that I will stay awake worrying that I will be billed for yet another night of insomnia. By the time I arrived home, I accepted that I may never sleep like a normal person again. I laid down next to my snoring husband and looked up at my ceiling. At least here I could lay awake without fear that the ceiling might fall on me.