I probably won't sleep, but I'm determined to enjoy myself anyway.
January 28, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm going in for a sleep study this week (both the "overnight" and the "daytime napping" parts) and I have a few practical questions.

Tomorrow (Sunday) night I report to the sleep clinic at 8:30pm. They're keeping me till 4pm the next day, because they need to rule out both sleep apnea and narcolepsy. I have a few questions:

1. I understand there is some kind of sticky stuff that will end up in my hair. How difficult will this be to remove? They do have a shower at the clinic.

2. Really, what should I wear? I am well-endowed, as they say, and normally I wear a camisole with a shelf bra to sleep in when there are other people around, to keep things contained. Will that work? Can I put on and take off a button-down shirt, too? I was thinking (I am freaked out about the idea of someone watching me sleep) of putting the button-down shirt on after I'm hooked up.

3. How tired should I realistically expect to be at the end of this whole process? I want to go to a fellow Toastmasters club open house at 7:30pm on Monday night (three hours after being let out,) and go to work at 8am the next day.

4. What are good activities to bring along to amuse yourself during the MSLT? I have to be able to stay awake, which is making me rethink my plan to read the church book club selection (Romeo and Juliet,) and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be out of it mentally, so the idea to write my next few Toastmasters speeches while I'm sitting there seems unlikely.

5. Are there any pro tips for making this pleasant (or less unpleasant) that I don't already know about?

The things I already know:
- no caffeine after noon
- I have a prescription in case I can't sleep at all
- they'll let me shower and stuff there
- they will provide breakfast and lunch, and I can bring more food/drinks if I want
- no hand/body lotion, no hair spray or gel

The stuff I plan to bring with me:
- my own toothbrush, pillow, earplugs, and all my vitamins, etc.
- my BlackBerry and laptop
- my current embroidery project
- Romeo and Juliet, maybe one or two comic or trivia books (something light)
- a favorite food or two (for comfort)

I'm totally willing to buy things, if there's anything you found awesome that I don't already own or plan to bring: suggest away, please!
posted by SMPA to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
1) The stuff is pretty difficult to get out of your hair. Hot water for a while, then lots of shampoo. But it does come out. They'll also mark your skin with a wax pencil of some sort, but that came off absolutely no problem in the shower. I also had a minor reaction to the tape they used to attach things to my cheeks, and ended up with some unattractive red cheek rashes (they went away after a day though), so if you're going straight anywhere make sure you have some makeup in case of problems like that.

2) As long as you're wearing separates it's pretty much fine -- they'll put leads on your legs so they need to run those through your pants, and they'll put straps around your chest, so you probably won't be able to put anything over that just because then there are lines running from your chest to the hookup and I don't think it would be practical to wear something over that because of the pulling, but I would have been able to wear a button up shirt under that.

I only had an overnight, so I can't help with 3-4-5.
posted by brainmouse at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2012

1. The hair goop is most likely just conductive gel. All the gels I've ever used washed out easily with water. The gel is applied in pea-sized amounts to cup-shaped or patch-shaped recording electrodes that are placed at certain point on your scalp. IIRC, a somnogram only takes a few electrodes, rather than a full montage of 64 or 128. A wax pencil ("china marker") may be used to keep track of landmarks around your head, such as the vertex of your skull. It is discreet and washes out easily.

4. Isn't the entire point of the Multiple Sleep Latency Test to measure how prone you are to falling asleep while not engaged in a purposeful activity? You could bring some reading to occupy yourself between trials, but otherwise expect to make your attention available to the medical staff.
posted by Nomyte at 12:10 PM on January 28, 2012

My boyfriend just did a sleep study like this and they sent him home in the morning. They said they had everything they needed and they didn't need him to nap. Just FYI, don't get your hopes up though.

When I did a study years ago, they abraded the shit out of my scalp and skin "to get a better connection." that sucked. But the gel washed out pretty easily.
posted by cabingirl at 12:29 PM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: Brainmouse/cabingirl: Thank you! I'll be sure to bring aloe gel with me. Hopefully the tape, if they use any, won't annoy my birthmark area too much (that skin is extra sensitive.)

Nomyte: I'm going to be there from 6am to 4pm, after the apnea test is done, and I'm supposed to be awake for all but one hour and twenty minutes of that - it's a lot of time to kill. :) I'm very relieved to hear about the gel coming out. Thanks!

Those who have not answered: feel free to keep replying. :) Amongst other things, I may be going in for a second night at the end of the week, for the CPAP titration thing.
posted by SMPA at 12:46 PM on January 28, 2012

I was somewhat tired after it, but not too bad. I'd say you'll be all right to go out that evening and go to work the next day.

I just brought books - bring a selection of both light and hard - and watched the TV that was in the room. (It was done in a hotel; not sure if that's at all standard.) I had been worried about being bored before I had the study, but it didn't feel nearly as draggy as I'd thought it would.

I've actually had two sleep studies - one that was just overnight in a lab and the one you're talking about with naps the next day in the hotel. In both, they purposely kept the temperature too cold for my liking. Since it was purposeful, I'm not sure you should intend to counteract that, but it might not hurt to bring both warm and cool pajamas for whatever the conditions are in your study.
posted by vegartanipla at 3:41 PM on January 28, 2012

Best answer: I had to do both the overnight and MSLT too. Oh my god, make sure you bring something interesting to do. I made the mistake of bringing only two books with me to occupy my time during the wait.

1. I definitely got more that just a pea-sized amount for each electrode on my head. It was more like a mini dollop of greasy, goopy stuff, and the electrode was squished in. Any gel exposed to air eventually crusted, but it'll definitely come out with a good soak in hot water and some gentle scrubbing during your shower. Maybe just an extra round of shampoo to get the greasy feeling out?

2. I would recommend wearing to bed what you'd normally wear, and having a warm bath robe or something comfy on hand for cover up (during prep + waiting). It can be anything really, just something you can put on without putting over your head. I made the mistake of wearing a long sleeved button-down pajama shirt instead of the usual tee, and it definitely reduced my quality of sleep since it felt so different from what my body was used to. The added plus of having a robe is that it can act as a source of warmth should your room be chilly and the provided blanket not thick enough.

3. Despite feeling confident about my professed ability to fall asleep anywhere I wanted, I didn't get a good night's sleep at all because the tape on my face was so irritating, the central air system vent wouldn't stop buzzing, and the blanket there was so thin. You really can't predict what the conditions of your room will be like and how you'll respond, since I went in thinking it would be so easy to get through the night, and yet came out dead tired in the morning.

4. The MSLT is tough becuase you won't have a computer or TV or movies or anything to entertain you while you wait inbetween naps. You're likely going to feel moody and groggy following the overnight. All I could do during the day test was read my two books, which is when I realized what a mistake it was to bring The Bell Jar and De Profundis. I think hobby-related projects like the embroidery you mentioned, or knitting, would be a good way to kill time.

Pro tips (aka things I wish I had thought to bring)
  • a warm, fluffy bath robe
  • comfy socks
  • ear plugs
  • chapstick
  • sleeping mask in case you need complete darkness. make sure to put it over your head (resting on your shoulders) before they wire you up
  • ipod charger
  • favorite bottled beverages (juice, tea, whatever or else you'll be limited to water or overpriced vending machine selection, assuming they even have one on-site)
  • SNACKS! yes, great thinking! my test was at the NYU hospital so i only got hospital food.

posted by hellomina at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2012

I've only had an overnight study. I mostly wished I had talked to them beforehand; I sleep on my stomach, which they were ok with, but the tech didnt' hook me up so that was easy to do (there wasn't enough room in the wires, so getting adjusted was pretty challenging).

The thing that really sucked, though, was that the bed was *way* too soft. If I ever have to go in for another one, I'm going to find a way to check out the sleep center before hand so I can see if there are other options-- I would have preferred to sleep on the floor rather than that giant marshmallow.
posted by nat at 5:01 PM on January 28, 2012

I did an overnight + nap study about a month ago. The gel was bright blue and felt like glue with cement in it: sticky and gritty. So gross. Having that shit on my head all day may have been the most unpleasant part. I didn't trust the crappy little bottle of hospital shampoo to get it out, so I scrubbed the giant sticky gel spots with a beeswax-based moisturizer I had on me -- you know, like using peanut butter to get gum out of your hair -- then put a hat on, went home, and took a proper shower with a TON of conditioner. Then I took a three-hour nap in my own bed. FUCKING GLORIOUS. It was one of the better naps of my life to date. (The MSLT naps sucked ass, because I am not a power napper, and of course I didn't feel like I slept super well overnight. I'd have been incredibly cranky if I'd had to do things right after.)

Embroidery's a good idea -- I brought knitting and my netbook. A pillow is a really good idea; use a pillowcase that you won't mind messing up, in case the electrode gel gets on it. Snacks and beverages are key. I wore a big t-shirt and pajama pants and socks; I think a camisole would have worked fine. Oh -- and they made me put my actual clothes on for the MSLT, so make your daytime outfit one you won't mind sleeping in. If you're like me and like to sleep under heavy blankets, bring one; the hospital blanket was pretty wussy and I slept under my big heavy bathrobe just for the extra weight.
posted by clavicle at 10:53 PM on January 28, 2012

Best answer: 1. It's not that difficult. Just give things a good scrub.

2. The only thing I'd bring out of the ordinary is maybe a robe or something. The robe is just for those times when you're in the room and you have no need to leave but you don't feel comfortable just sitting around in your underwear (particularly for the MSLT).

3. It's not so much that you'll be tired when you get out but that your sleep will be a mess. You'll probably feel weird and groggy. I'd take the night off and not do anything besides relax and get yourself in the mindset to fall asleep that night. The next day, you'll be fine.

4. To stay awake for my MSLT, I used my laptop and the Wi-Fi they had there to hop on Final Fantasy XI and play for a little while here and there. If you have wireless, I would suggest something similar. I'd actually make a point to avoid reading, writing, anything low-energy or too relaxing. Talking on the phone to people helped me stay awake in between naps, too. Crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, that sort of thing helps a lot.

Additionally, when I had my sleep study done, everything was made as comfortable for me as possible. The mattress was adjustable, the temperature of the room could be changed, I could sleep in complete darkness or a bit of light, these are all things you should find out before you go into the study so you can plan accordingly. If they're giving you full comfort and full freedom, then great. If not, they should be able to give you all that information upfront so you can get your ducks in a row so to speak.
posted by Modica at 10:56 PM on January 28, 2012

I had no trouble getting the gel out of my hair. Didn't even need shampoo; washed away with warm water.
posted by flabdablet at 1:39 AM on January 29, 2012

I was going to mention a prescription sleep aid but I see you've already got that. Make sure they know if you're going to take it because I was told they only allow it as a last resort because it can affect sleep cycles.

When I had a sleep study it was bar-none the worst night of sleep in my life. They told me the test was unusable because I was never really asleep. I got a prescription for another try, but they were never able to reschedule with me before I moved away from the area.
posted by stopgap at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2012

Response by poster: I survived! Mission debriefing follows.

1. The stuff in my hair was, before it was applied, remarkably similar in appearance to that foam you use to insulate pipes and stuff with. However, it felt more like hair gel when wet, and like eye crusties when dry. It came out with extremely little difficulty; I didn't even need to shampoo twice.

2. The camisole worked great; the attempt to put something on over it was a total bust. Luckily the room was warm enough that this was totally OK; I'll definitely bring more blankets if I have to do this in another place in the future, just in case.

3. I am not that tired (I arrived home about 10 minutes ago.) I am drinking caffeine, though, and will probably go to bed as soon as I get home from the TM meeting. If not for the fact I'd already scheduled it, I'd probably go to bed pretty early tonight.

4. The things that I actually did were: reading a book I already know I like and that only challenges me at about the 50% level, relatively easy crossword puzzles, and messing around on my phone, mostly reading fanfiction I've already read. I should have brought a lap desk; there was no table to work at, and I didn't feel comfortable doing crafts or coloring or working on my laptop in bed without one.

5. My tips for anyone who uses this exact same sleep center in the future:
- Bring your own everything, including towels. Yes, I know they said they have shampoo and stuff. Just bring your own.
- Also bring pillows and blankets as though you knew for sure there wouldn't be any. Special hugs to IKEA's relatively expensive pillows, BTW.
- Yes to the robe, a thousand times yes. During the day you are sharing the hallways with the staff, the day patients there for appointments, etc.
- Sleep mask if they'll let you, for the MSLT. The window coverings are only about 99% effective.
- If you don't like Bob Evans food and water, bring your own food and water. If you do like Bob Evans food but suspect that it won't be enough, bring your own. (If I do this again I will be bringing caffeine free beverages like root beer.) Really just bring your own, you'll be happier.
- Have your own water bottle; it's a hike to the water cooler.
- Also have flip-flops or shower shoes; it's a (much shorter) hike to the bathroom.
- Use the bathroom that isn't closest to the reception area. I know it has a shower in it; that's still the one they direct all the daytime visitors to.

6. My tips more generally:
- They ask questions no one can realistically expect you to know the answer to ("Did you sleep?" "Did you dream?" "How many minutes would you say you were awake?") Guessing is apparently fine.
- Don't be a hero, just take the sleep aid you were given. When they wake you up at 3:30am because your pulse oximeter fell off your finger, it is probably going to be a bit harder to fall asleep than it would have been at home, and the day is going to be very very long.
- Earplugs are awesome. Especially if the day of your MSLT is also the day of some sort of staff party.
- The reason you want the chapstick is because they stick a thing in your nose and mouth that keeps them open all night long. (I will be putting the chapstick by the bed, along with the earplugs and the sleep aid bottle, for my titration appointment.)
- If you didn't get woken up to switch to the CPAP halfway through the night, they don't tell you squat about how you're doing. Don't bother asking.
- Eat sensibly the day before. The popcorn and lemonade in lieu of dinner on Sunday? Bad decision.
- Practice sleeping on your back. They're going to really insist on that (in the end they let me switch, but only because I did a good three hours on my back first.)

I am fascinated to see what my results are, and kind of annoyed I have to wait till the 16th (yes, really) to get them. It seems to me it should be like an X-Ray or lie detector test or something. Ah, well.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

(Awesome "this is how to cope with CPAP titration" answers still very much appreciated.)
posted by SMPA at 1:38 PM on January 30, 2012

Too late for you, but in the interests of completeness... I let the conductive gel dry and then pick it out of my hair with my fingers. It's, well, super gross, but surprisingly effective, and also a little soothing (if you ever let glue dry on your hands as a kid just so you could pick it off, then you know what I'm talking about)... Make sure you're in an easy to vacuum area, because there'll be a lot of crud all around you by the time you're done. (I read a book while doing this, as it does take a while.)
posted by anaelith at 1:42 PM on January 30, 2012

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