sleepy girl tea

My husband has been pushing me to go to a sleep clinic for the last seven years, I think. He says I constantly stop breathing suddenly several times during the night, so he’s always suspected I have sleep apnea.

I’ve always kinda thought to myself, “Well, sure, one day,” but I’ve never really taken action. I think it’s so easy to just put aside health issues that don’t seem to be death-looming-ly dangerous – because it doesn’t visually look bad, or physically hurt, I can pretend it doesn’t exist for a while. Especially when there are other priorities that require those funds.

However, I’ve realised that I do deal with a number of my problems rather passively. Sure, I’ve actually learned ways to work around issues, within restrictions and with my limits, instead of hating on what I can’t do. But perhaps it’s time to take the bull by its horns. Especially if it’s part of what causes my daily struggles with exhaustion.

And because my husband is so afraid that one day I’ll die in my sleep and my son will have lost his mother for no good reason.

[Not trying to be dramatic here, sleep problems are actually very serious, and should be taken seriously. If you suspect that you have a sleep issue, I really hope that my blogging about my experience will inspire you to take action as well, and get that sorted out! So we can all watch our kids grow up! 🙂 ]

My First Sleep Consultation (Take 1)

Was a huge fail! I completely overslept (the irony) and so I never made it. ? Made another appointment.

My First Sleep Consultation (Take 2)

This time I actually made it… BUT MORE IRONY… I lost my wallet on the bus heading to the appointment… because I had fallen asleep and let it drop from my hands. Sigh. My sleeping issues make me really unreliable – I suppose the only thing that’s reliable is the fact that I can fall asleep anytime and anywhere, very often, and very quickly. If I’m on the couch with a blankie on me, oh lordy, there is no hope.

This is exactly me. I fall asleep instantly when I’m in wrapped in a blankie, but I don’t wake refreshed!
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

During the consultation, the doctor went through with me this 10-page questionnaire that I had to fill in beforehand. Long story short, it asks all kinds of questions about my sleep routine, bed rituals, sleep-wake rhythm, exhaustion problems, snoring issues, medical history, and other related problems.

The most interesting thing I had to fill in was what’s called the ‘Epworth Sleepiness Scale’ (in Dutch, ‘Epworth Slaperigheidsschaal’). It basically asks you how likely you are to fall asleep in a few given situations, and the higher the number, the more serious your issues.

Download this specially-designed-by-me Epworth Sleepiness Scale questionnaire here if you’d like to do it for yourself! (In English / In Dutch)

I basically scored 19 out of 24, which is considered ‘Severe Excessive Daytime Sleepiness’. I like scoring high on any test, usually. But maybe not this one so much. ?

It’s not normal

One of the things that stood out the most from the consultation was the doctor telling me my symptoms of exhaustion are “not normal.”

Apparently, exhausted moms do not just sporadically fall asleep after dinner, whenever they sit in the couch, while reading or watching television, or in the middle of a conversation with someone (“And you didn’t tell your husband it’s just because he wasn’t very interesting, not because you have sleep issues?” – doc’s attempt at humour.).

Apparently, I’ve always thought this was what exhausted moms struggle with. Nope, just me. Apparently.

I should also point out that we established that I not only struggle with exhaustion, I also struggle with sleepiness. The difference is that exhaustion is the feeling of fatigue, like you’re not refreshed from your sleep, and you find it hard to focus on tasks. Sleepiness is this overwhelming urge to fall asleep. For me, it’s more than an urge. It’s a reflex that I am utterly powerless to.

Sleepiness is my sin.
Photo by Ephraim Mayrena on Unsplash

Can you sleep more?

At some point we were talking about how I sleep around 1am and wake up at 7am, so I get about 6 hours of sleep per night. I try really hard to go to bed around midnight, so I’ll get a good 7 hours of sleep, but it always so often turns very quickly into 1am. Hands up if you know what that’s like.

But when the doctor asked me this seemingly simple question of “Can you sleep more?” something in me just flipped.

“HOW???” I blurted out. “How do you work, take care of a kid, cook dinner every day, do the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum the floor, and get 8-10 hours of sleep a day?? How does anyone do that? If I had help, sure, but I don’t. It’s just me. I’m already doing what I can. HOW???”

Yup. I was definitely feeling a little bit defensive, but hey, I was feeling very much attacked. In my mind, instantly, came all those insecurities that we have when we compare ourselves with others – “How on earth does SHE do it? Do all that AND sleep 8-10 hours a day?” (You should know that there is no ‘she’, ‘she’ is just the ideal perfect mom in my head. But the mom that my doctor is inadvertently suggesting I should be.)

And so it’s no surprise that my mind turns to my doctor next. “Are you even a mother? This kind of question – ‘Can you sleep more?’ – sounds like the kind of question single people and childless couples ask. Because they don’t know any better. It’s a whole new world when you become a parent, guys. A WHOLE NEW WORLD. We most certainly do not live under the same rules.

Okay, little defensive trip over, I replied, humbly, “I don’t know how I possible could get more sleep. I don’t know where that time would come from.” #Truth

Honestly, she tired but she look good. I’m tired sans makeup lol
Photo by Debashis RC Biswas on Unsplash

Coming to a conclusion

She then asked a whole set of other questions, such as if I wake up with headaches, if I ever wake up feeling paralyzed, how often I get up to pee in the middle of the night, and if I suffer from insomnia. We also established that my endocrinologist claims that it’s got nothing to do with my thyroid issues (I don’t really believe her but okay). We both agreed that it was good to have at least had that chat so we could rule out things systematically. So if you suffer from exhaustion and/or sleepiness, I would definitely recommend checking with your endocrinologist first if you have existing thyroid issues.

We had a good laugh over the fact that as I was filling in the form where it said “How long does it take you to fall asleep?” and it had ___ hours ___ minutes, and my husband said to put beside it 30 seconds, and he said that was actually already rounding it up. (It usually takes my husband about 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep, so you can be sure he’s very jealous about my superpower of falling asleep instantaneously. Nobody should be jealous of this though, I fall asleep EVERYWHERE. That’s kinda why I’m at the sleep clinic, duh LOL)

And then the doctor suddenly turned serious and said, “Do you drive?” and before waiting for me to respond, said, urgently, “You really can’t drive, you know, with these symptoms.”

“I know,” I said, “My husband has never let me even learn how to drive because he knows I’m not safe on the roads.” Me, thinking about that time when I fell asleep on my bicycle and literally road my bicycle AND my trailer up into a shrub. Up AND into. At an angle. I had to wake up, gather myself, and lift my trailer out from the shrub. *shakes head* Good thing my son wasn’t in it. He was safely at school, phew!

I’m guessing she was asking all these different questions to note if there were any clusters of symptoms that could point to any possible conditions, but apparently I remained a mystery.

“We need to conduct a sleep investigation,” was the conclusion.

sleep in office
I can only hope sleeping in the hospital will be more comfortable than this looks.

The sleep investigation

My sleep investigation will take place over two days at the hospital. On the first day, I will need to check in in the afternoon and get all hooked up to various machines that will take readings while I sleep. Then I’ll do what I do best all night – sleep. The next morning, they’ll wake me up, conduct a series of questionnaires with me, and then every 2 hours I’ll have to take a 20 minute nap. And complete more sleep surveys after every nap.

I guess I’ll update when that actually happens and what goes down (besides my head on the pillow)!

Because my appointment is a whole month away, the doctor wants me to fill in a “Sleep Journal”. I basically have to mark out in 15-minute blocks every time I fall asleep during the day. She says that this will be very helpful in trying to figure out what’s wrong (with me, she didn’t say).

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Just as I was about to leave, she said, “Don’t worry, if it is sleep apnea, we’ll know from the investigation. Whatever sleep issues you’re facing, we’ll find a solution. We can treat these issues, don’t worry.”

I don’t know if it was just her saying that, or the fact that I also took that first step and went for this sleep clinic consultation in the first place, but I let my heart do a little dance. Can you imagine NOT being exhausted and sleepy all day? I cannot. I absolutely cannot. I’m sure at some point in my life I wasn’t exhausted and sleepy all day, but you know what, I do not even remember what that was like.

If there is a way to live my life without being dragged down by exhaustion and falling asleep at all the wrong timings, I would love to have that life. One step at a time, and here’s to hoping.

Waking up fresh and well-rested… Will this ever be me? ?