Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sleeping Through the Night

I knew my boys would keep me up all night when they were babies. The surprise is that they still do.

There were a few years in there, from around 3 to 13, where pretty much everyone in this house went to bed when I thought they should and got up when I wanted them to. But those days are over.

The last couple of weeks have been particularly sleepless ones for the Bird family. Bob and I do our best to make sure one of us is awake until the kids get home, although sometimes exhaustion takes over, in which case the late arrival has to wake us up when he gets in. There's an obvious flaw in this plan; a child who doesn't come home isn't going to be rousing us. But sometimes it's the best we can do.

Billy's into technical theatre, and last week he was working on a show till 11 or later most every night, arriving home just in time to do a few hours of homework. One night he called Bob (I was in California) when rehearsal was over. It was 11. "I'm going to Kate's for a study group for the AP Chemistry test," he said. Had I been home, my response would have been a quick "Oh no you're not." But Bob's a pushover, and so Billy was out studying -- and Bob was up vegetating -- till 1 a.m. (I know what you're thinking, but based on his test grade, if he was somewhere besides Kate's, AP chemistry was nonetheless being discussed.)

The final production of Billy's show was Sunday night, and again, he didn't get home till after midnight -- with a paper yet to write. Now here's the amazing thing. HE WASN'T PARTICULARLY TIRED. The same could not be said for Bob and me. Monday our asses were dragging. By that night, when Billy and Ben arrived home from practice for a different play at 9:30, Bob and I were propping our eyelids up with toothpicks. But relief was not in sight. Ben was so freaked about how much homework he had left to do that he was literally vibrating. I thought he needed a good dose of Momitol, so I sat nearby while he plowed through. By the time Tuesday rolled around, I felt like I'd been plowed.

Even had I been well rested, I would've still been Bitchy Mom when Billy announced that night at 10 that he was headed out for another group study session. I put my foot down. Which was why I was surprised when 15 minutes later he announced he was running to the grocery store to get the cookies and Cokes he had signed up to bring for the next day's student government blood drive. He would've gone, too, if I hadn't convinced him all the groceries in our area were closed. (This is because they are operated by adults, not teenagers.)

By Wednesday a.m., I was so tired it hurt. But help was finally on the way.

The last year or so, I've become quite the snorer. My husband, who is sweet, merely has to wake me up a few times a night to ask me to reposition. My friends, who are not sweet, refuse to room with me on our annual trips and make obnoxious jokes about the insufficiency of earplugs. So I saw a sleep specialist, who set me up for an overnight sleep study. Wednesday was The Big Night.

For some reason I had to be photographed when I checked in. The nurse told me I was the first patient who'd smiled for the camera all evening. "Why are you so happy?' she asked.

"Because I'm so excited to be here!" I told her. Yes, folks, this is what I've been reduced to: an exhausted mother smiling like a crazy person about the prospect of a night in a sleep clinic.

It's not that I like wires, about 700 of which are taped to you before they let you turn in, or hospital breakfasts, which they serve you the next morning. (Beware of orange hash browns.) It's that when you go to a sleep disorders clinic, no one there wants you to help with homework or finish cleaning up the kitchen or spend another four or five hours on a work project. You're not expected to stay up until someone else is ready for bed. The only thing they want you to at the sleep clinic is sleep. It's your job.

I excel at sleeping, or so I thought. According to some of those 700 wires, I was asleep exactly 90 seconds after the nurse told me good night. But some of the other wires revealed something else. My snore is so loud that I'm waking myself up. A lot. Okay, if you must know -- approximately every 30 seconds.

This puts my constant exhaustion in perspective. Not only am I staying up way later than I want to, when I'm sleeping I'm not really asleep. I'm just impersonating a sleeper. And Bob? He's what they refer to in the sleep business as "collateral damage."

Obviously this has got to stop. Next week I'll see an ENT to decide what to do. Apparently there are all sorts of vaguely menacing sounding surgical procedures -- you don't really want details -- that will likely take care of the problem.

"If they can't fix it, though, we're not done with you," the doctor said. "We'll bring you back in here, and after you finish your night sleep, we'll keep you here for a day and watch you while you take five naps."

I can hardly wait.

No comments: