virtual dreamer

nextI have written extensively over the years about the process of falling asleep and have sorted my journal into four areas of interest.

The Insomniac and The Sleep Lab from Hell

In 1991 I left my cushy job at Pearl Harbor on Oahu where I was working on a defense contract with the U.S. Navy. Why I left will, I am sure, be a journal entry subject in the future. I ended up at another military complex called Robins Air Force base in <gulp> Warner Robins, Georgia. I am confident that the town of Warner Robins, GA. has its finer points but, quite frankly, it is a community that would not exist if it wasn't for that massive military base. Talk about culture shock. One month I am sitting on the North Shore in Oahu sipping a Mai Tai. The next thing I know I am 4000 miles away living in a run-down office that was located off the run-down main drag of a run-down town that I had never even heard of. That's right. I said living in the office... a story for another time.

I was stressed. My insomnia*, a condition I had been wrestling with for many years by that point, had become unmanageable. I was so tired that I would literally stand on my feet trying to pass out. If that does not make sense to you then welcome to an insomniac's mindset. I went to see a doctor who referred me to another doctor who referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist ran the only sleep lab in Warner Robins. He had, by default, cornered the insomniac market. He was a one man monopoly. An insomnia mogul. However, he did make a good case for a laboratory test. Epilepsy, apnea, brain tumor... heck, it could be anything. Even Fatal Familial insomnia. Fatal insomnia? NoOoOoooOo! I was too young to die.

The price was $400.00 in 1991 dollars. So, even though it was not covered by my insurance, I signed up for the big test. I fully expected him to tell me to arrive late in the evening, or possibly very, very early in the morning for my sleep exam. I was taken aback when his nurse called to tell me I was scheduled for 1:00. That's 13:00 in military time. 1:00 ... in the afternoon. ' Well, he's the doc', I said to myself, 'he must know what he's doing'. Read on, dear insomniac.

The World's Worst Sleep Lab

The Sleep Lab was located in the only hospital in Warner Robins. It was a hospital that looked like it was once a small factory... that evolved from a smaller middle school.  I arrived full of anticipation. Maybe my sleep problem could be repaired. Maybe I didn't have to live like this.  Maybe... maybe...

Maybe not.

The rotund young lady that met me there advised that the doctor would not be coming as he had a previous appointment with a plate of hot ribs. OK, I made that part up. But he certainly was not there. So the only 'sleep expert' physician in town, who ran the only sleep lab in town, could not make it for the the big sleep test on the worst insomniac in town. Or, at least, that's how I felt. After being wired up with sensors and what-nots I mounted the bed. I say 'mounted' as it was a good four feet off the floor. 'Scaled' might be a better word. Now beds come in all sorts of sizes. King, Queen, double, single. This one came in 'door' size. It was just big enough to roll thru the old middle school room's single door. So there I was... perched in my gurney sized bed ready for the big sleep test. Now, back on good ol' Oahu I had become accustomed to my comfy 600 thread-count cotton sheets. Their sheets were of a different ilk. I would estimate maybe.. 32 threads of polyester per inch. The cheap sheets barely covered the piece of paper that was placed under them. You know. That sanitary paper that your doctor pulls over the exam chair so you don't get/give cooties to/from another. It made a crinkly-crackly sound whenever I made the slightest movement. The lights went out. Well, sort off. My test bed was only feet away from her 'control room'. We were separated by only a large thin window. She never bothered to turn her fluorescent lights off. After all, how's a lab tech supposed to read People Magazine with the lights out? You can only expect so much.

"OK, try to fall asleep",  she said over the intercom. Why they needed an intercom was beyond me as I could swear I heard her breathing. A occasional chortle and snort would emanate from her position and I supposed that Madonna had done something People Magazine worthy.

I tried. I really did. The thin lofty bed was uncomfortable and I could not relax.. The room was barren and much too warm. The sanitary paper under the crappy sheet was making noises. There were people in hard shoes trekking down an adjacent hallway. Echoes of muffled laughter occasionally wafted in. But finally, because I was so tired, I began to fall asleep. I was slowly descending into the abyss when a sound so vile entered my auditory canal and slapped my tympanic membrane like a bitch.



The cherub faced sleep lab tech was munching on corn chips. When it was all over the corn-chip eating People Magazine reading lab assistant insisted that I had indeed slept. She pointed to some inky squiggles on her printouts. I left the hospital-factory-middle school feeling defeated. Not by my insomnia, mind you. But by a medical community that, at that time and in that place, didn't understand my condition at all. However, they certainly understood how to get my money. Fatal Familial Insomnia, indeed.

One last thought: The neurologist advised me that the test was 'inconclusive' and that he really did need me to come back for another sleep test. "Well then how about some pills, doc?", I asked.

"I'd really rather not... not until we can pin down your problem".

The Warner Robins Sleep Lab Monopoly Mogul had spoken.

*Insomnia can be an indication of a serious underlying health condition. Our opinions are in no way intended to be taken as medical advice. If your insomnia issue warrants it please seek the advice of a qualified physician.