Sunday, 4 March 2012

Part of the machine

So, how was your Friday night, dear reader? A chance to unwind after the week's efforts, maybe? A little drink, perhaps something nice to eat? I bet you retired to bed and slept a deep, restful sleep.

You lucky, lucky gits.

As my saintly wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, will tell you, bedtime with me is an acquired taste. Stop sniggering at the back there. Being next to me in bed means putting up with a bewildering array of noises. The sounds I make have been variously described as 'chainsawing through a herd of donkeys,' 'kickstarting a DC10,' and 'navigating one's way through the lower colon of an enraged bull sealion'.

She's a fortunate girl, and no doubt.

But the snoring, bad as it is, is a symptom of something else. As I've mentioned before, I have a bit of a problem with the whole 'eight hours of restful sleep concept'. Which is why on Friday morning I paid a trip to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

I've had very little contact with the NHS in my 40-odd years; it was a novel experience to be visiting a hospital as a patient instead of being, well, a visitor. I asked for directions to the sleep clinic and was given a laminated card. There then followed a confusing succession of lifts, and corridors. I'm almost certain I crossed more than one time zone; looking through one open door I'm convinced I saw the Serengeti desert off in the distance. Eventually I reached the clinic, where a very efficient technician measured my height and weight (I winced at this latter number) before explaining what was going to happen next.

I'd known in advance that I was going to pick up something called an Embletta. I had no idea beforehand what this device would be. The name suggested it could be one of those small Italian scooters and to be honest I was struggling to understand how this would help. But, as it turned out, an Embletta is not something you'd have seen in La Dolce Vita. It's a digital recording device, designed to monitor and save a whole bunch of data while you sleep. Or, in my case, fail to sleep.

The technician explained how the Embletta would work and got me to sign a form confirming that I would bring it back, or pay the NHS £7,000 if I failed to do so. No pressure, then.

So this is why, on Friday night, I was to be found with a device the size of an old-school Sony Walkman strapped to my chest. I wouldn't mind, but I couldn't even play my Rush cassettes on it. Then there were additional sensors around my stomach (yes, they reached, thank you) and upper chest. My index finger was plugged into another sensor, plus there was a cannula - a tube with little prongs going into each nostril, to measure my breathing.

Katie watched, wide-eyed, as I strapped myself into this array of wires and tubes, little lights flashing. I lumbered towards the bed, wearing a shapeless old t-shirt, looking and sounding for all the world like a Poundland Darth Vader.

"You know, I don't think I've ever been more aroused than I am right now," she said.

She wasn't helping. And so, just to make my position clear, I told her. "You're not helping," I said.

And so to bed. I don't lie on my back as I can't breathe then, and I've found breathing to be quite important. I couldn't go on my front as I had all this hardware there. So I balanced precariously on one side and tried to sleep. I failed miserably.

I don't know what data the Embletta will have recorded. I'm not sure what the sleep clinic will make of my 11:45pm visit to the bathroom to have a pee. Or the fact that I went downstairs for a couple of hours to lie on the sofa, because Katie was snoring loudly (ironic, huh?). I think perhaps there was some fleeting sleep there, but if the machine blinked it might have missed it.

So I think we've established one thing with regards to my sleeping. I can't do it if I have sensors velcroed to me, my index finger in a bulldog clip and a tube up my nose. Fascinating. Who knew?

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