I have just returned from an all-night study of my sleep habits that should have been called an all-night study of my awake habits, because all during the study there’s no getting any sleep.
You lie there as tense as death, hooked up to 17 electrodes that in turn are hooked up to electronic devices that study exactly how your body and your inner organs are doing while you are struggling to go to sleep, a struggle that keeps you wider and wider awake.
You occupy a room about the size of one at a midrange motel or an upscale brothel (I’m guessing, of course), dominated by a king-size bed and small tables here and there. The toilet is down the hall. There was only one other patient in the building, and he left shortly after I arrived.
The equipment was connected and monitored by a young man who set me up and then left to be with the machines. It was just the two of us the remainder of the night. I could feel his eyes on me, and the essence of me shooting through the wires. I was nothing but a mass of numbers and electronic hieroglyphics. The silence and the dim light gave the place the spooky ambiance of a Freddy Krueger movie, with Freddy himself waiting in the shadows just outside the door.
I was told not to move around a lot because the electrodes might come loose. Normally I thrash about, kick off the blankets and lose the sheets, so that in the morning the bed looks as though I have spent the night romancing Godzilla. Last night at the sleep lab, nothing was out of place; the idea of disconnecting anything terrified me.
I spent the whole night at attention, kept there by a tangle of wires that at any moment could rob me of my soul.
All of this was ordered as part of a medical recovery plan to make sure that after two months in the hospital I was getting better and not going to die and screw up their reputations. Twice I almost did die from pneumonia, congestive heart failure, inner bleeding and a massive diabetes attack. It amazed the doctors that I survived it all, but not my wife. She said I was too damned stubborn to die.
I swear I was awake 90 percent of the night. When they unhooked me and sent me on my way, I was so wobbly I could hardly walk. I fell asleep in the car instantly. No wires attached.
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