The mechanics of sleep

I messaged my special one the other morning and commented about how I only managed about six hours of sleep that night.  In her return message, she observed that on nights that precede days off, I tend to get up earlier more often than not, I don’t necessarily get more sleep considering it is a day off, and if necessary, during the course of the day, I can get a nap in (and usually do, not always intentionally).  After thinking about it, I was forced to admit she’s right, that’s what seems to happen.  I may get up to use the bathroom in the morning of a day off, and since I don’t have to be on the go, or getting up to go to work, I can stay up if I wish and accomplish things if there’s a desire to do so, without being rushed.  An interesting observation to be sure.

Too, I’ve been using a CPAP machine for the past 20 years as well.  For a long time when I was working nights, I didn’t get very good sleep during the day, and I mostly attributed it to the fact that I was sleeping during the day and not at night as is considered to be normal.  With the invention and subsequent proliferation of electric, incandescent and fluorescent lights, the possibility of working more than two shifts in a workplace became more common.  Go back to the early years of the 20th century and you don’t find too many businesses able to afford three shifts, mainly because their workers would be in the dark, and if you can’t see what you’re doing, you’re not going to be very productive.

Sleep apnea hadn’t been an issue until fairly recently.  Certain situations and instances when I’d feel particularly tired after sleeping 8-10 hours became more and more common and there were times when my wife told me I’d stop breathing in the middle of the night for a few seconds.  Oxygen deprivation would never set in and I’d invariably turn over and begin breathing normally once more, so it never became a life threatning issue.  Even so, she suggested I speak to my GP about it and he had me scheduled for a sleep study in 1999.

Back then a sleep study was a more involved affair, these days it can be done in your home overnight unless there’s a dire need to do it the old-fashioned way.  Meaning having you to report to a dedicated sleep study lab, be wired up to the machines (as I recall it took a good 45 minutes for all the wiring to be attached to my body) and then attempt to get sleep around 11 at night.  Too, you weren’t allowed to sleep on your side, you had to sleep (or try) on your back, so that you didn’t pull out any of the wires, and the bed was damned uncomfortable.  And you had someone monitoring you all night long, in another room with a light on, albeit somewhat subdued.  The only thing I could equate it to was being in a hospital and being awoken at odd hours to get your BP taken.  Finally, you had to be sure not to have drunk too much beforehand, because you weren’t allowed to get up and go to the bathroom once you were wired to the machines.

Pretty much the most restless sleep I’d had in ages, that I could remember.  When the tech rousted me at 5:30 am and told me I could go, I apologized for not giving him a better reading.  He said it was fine, no one gets much sleep when wired up like a stereo, in an uncomfortable bed, pillows etc.  They get the most that they can and generally get enough in the last couple of hours moreso than in the first ones when the subject is trying to get comfortable.  He said I’d be notified in about a week as to what the results were, but he did mention I stopped breathing more than a couple of times while he was observing.  So he was pretty sure I had sleep apnea, he just couldn’t tell me how bad it was.

I vividly remember driving home from the hospital rather bleary after being dewired from the monitoring machines.  It was right around sunrise, and it was a cold morning.  I had a 30 mile drive home, since the hospital where the sleep study lab was at, was a good ways away from there.  I drove there, had breakfast and then went back to bed, for a nap, which was much more restful than the one I had just previously.  A few days later my doctor referred me to a ENT nearby who confirmed I did indeed have ‘obstructive sleep apnea’ and needed a CPAP machine.  The surgery was available as well, but the machine seemed (to him at least) the better (and cheaper) alternative.

The first machine I got was about the size of a bread box, and cost about $3000.  Fortunately, my insurance covered most of the cost, or else I would have been in Dutch.  It must have been constructed rather solidly as it managed to survive nearly 18 years.  I finally had to get a new one when the motor on the old one burned out.  In that time the provider of the machine actually went through two owners and it was the third that provided me with the unit that I’m using now.

The old one had a serial port for communication, the new one uses WIFI for its connections and communicating with the home base.  The new unit does have a SD card port, but I believe it was put in just as a failsafe in case the WIFI was down or inoperative, so there would be a hard copy of the results for an ENT or other medical person to pull.  In the three years I’ve had the machine, neither my ENT nor the people that provided it have been interested in what’s on the card.

Getting back to the start of this entry, my sleep for the most part with the CPAP is pretty good.  Last night (this entry has been several days in the making, surprise surprise) I slept a little over 9 hours, and when I awoke, I still felt tired.  Right now, about an hour after waking, I feel rested and pretty good.  I should be ok for the remainder of the day.  Most nights I get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep.  Certainly there are nights I don’t, for one reason or another.  But when I’m using the machine and mask, my sleep is FAR better than when I don’t.  Which is why I’m often cautioned by my special one to use it, as opposed to just sleeping on the couch downstairs.  Believe me, I’m trying.



January and February are what I have always referred to as the ‘doldrum’ months when it comes to work.  It’s the period just after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, when people are paying off their massive expenditures after Christmas, starting (and usually failing) in their New Years’ resolutions, and there’s less money and effort being spent on the necessities, not like the past two months.

I call it that, because the word so easily fits.  I remember from school when we were learning about the equatorial region of the planet, where the weather is fairly unpredictable in terms of wind, storms and so on, and I when I learned the word ‘doldrum’ it stuck with me.  As some words just do.  Rolls off the tongue, and it most definitely dovetails with the time that we’re in right now.

Everything right now is more sedate.  People aren’t so much in a hurry to get where they’re going, there’s not so much the same rapidity in sales plans for businesses, and your average family is budgeting for paying off their holiday bills and not yet gearing up for holidays to come (other than the occasional birthday or whatnot), they’re pacing through the months just waiting for Spring to arrive so they can work towards the summer months that are on the way.

And tax season.


Reversing an old habit

The adage goes ‘Old habits die hard’, and they do. Certainly one of the worst ones I have is the need for clutter around me. Well, I can’t say it’s a need necessarily, it’s just what I’ve become accustomed to, what’s easiest and it’s certainly what I grew up with.

My parents were pack rats. Today they would be branded as hoarders, but the result is the same. Granted this condition probably stemmed from growing up during the Depression years of the first third of the  20th century where families were losing fortunes, property, and their life savings as well as their possessions every day. You held onto whatever you had as long as you could. Too, things were built to last longer, not like today when items you purchase might not even last a season, let alone a year.

With all that in mind, I’m reminded that I have a house chock full of stuff. Every room has piles of things that just sit and take up space, they don’t move for weeks, sometimes months and quite often years. Add in the fact I have a storage bin with boxes of items, old furniture, and antiques from my parent’s house. Much of it hasn’t been touched in close to 30 years, certainly, much of it is still in the same boxes they were packed up in, in 1992. As I get older, I begin to worry about what will become of it when I’m gone. I don’t have children to pass it onto, so more than likely it will either be auctioned off or tossed in a dumpster somewhere. Or a landfill. That’s a sobering thought.

With all that in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion something needs to be done before that scenario may come to pass.

The way I figure it, there are 12 rooms/sections of the house (not counting the storage bin, but definitely counting the garage) and there are 12 months in the year. It’s not to the point where there are newspapers and junk piled in every room, but there are things, and boxes, trash, and just stuff cluttered here and there that can be dealt with. I’m not going for a ‘hoe-out’, where things get tossed en masse, but we do need to cut down on the crap and minimize in many cases. Donate some, sell others, toss what’s broken, can’t be fixed or is beyond salvage. When we cleaned out my parent’s house in ’92 we filled 5 long construction debris bins with things they had accumulated over the years, and a lot of stuff was still left behind even so. I don’t want a repeat of that. That was hellacious.

So that’s my goal for 2020. 12 months, 12 rooms. I’ll be updating this as I go. If I finish a room early, I can start on the next, I think that’s fair.

Wish me luck.