A Lesson in Sleep

In 1991, when I was the political beat reporter for a radio station in Grand Rapids Michigan, I would have trouble arriving to work in a timely fashion.  My boss David Moore, the ex armed forces radio guy was a stickler about punctuality.  Mild mannered usually, David was the silent rage type of crazy.  I imagine this led to a slew of life challenges that involved “getting off with a warning” scenarios.

David had my apartment number on speed dial, and quite often, I would find him leaving me a message as I was working my way to my desk. My tardiness was the base of our “social” office relationship. I believe I genuinely intrigued this guy, who had a clear sense of duty to be on time.

Everyday we would get a stack of press releases to sift through. One of these was a call to the media announcing the new Sleep Lab at Butterworth Hospital.  I was handed the assignment with the added goal of “fixing the truancy problem”.

Sleep labs were a new thing, and this was the first of its kind in the state.   Looking back, it suprises me that it took until 1991 for the medical industry to exploit insomniacs.

Jennifer Kidd "Episode" indicated in red.

Jennifer Kidd “Episode” indicated in red.

The idea; strap 38 sensors with an epoxy style gel to a poor sap (who just paid $1,500), place them in a hospital bed, turn off the lights and see what happens.  They had sensors on everything. If I moved into my favorite sceniro with Coast Guard Queen Jennifer Kidd, some chain smoking technician on the other side of the wall would be measuring how exciting things got in my head and elsewhere.  Mostly, they are looking for unusual sleep patterns.

I attended the sleep lab as a story (saving me the $1,500).  I was diagnosed with mild Sleep Apnea.  At the time, this was attributed to a deviated septum on the left side of my face. The issues weren’t significant enough to take action.  I filed my story and went on with my generally tardy behavior.

Over the years, the idea of sleep has intrigued me.  I have read about alternative sleep patterns, dream interruption and the classic Idiot’s Guide to Sleep. Like many things, Americans may not be doing things the best way.

Sleep Cycles

There are multiple types of polyphasic sleep schedules


During the past decade, I have been experimenting with different sleep patterns. Not in entirely a scientific way, but more of an improvisational way.  As long as I get my REM’s, everything is great.


Lately, things haven’t been great.  My snoring is getting louder, I wake up more tired and my throat is always sore.  I have been using the classic monophasic schedule more often as well.

It was time for another Sleep study. Things have come a long way since I last took my last test; They have moved from paper print outs to digital.  They are also using a better less invasive gel.

In early September of 2014, I went through another test.  The results were a bit worse.  The average REM cycle (the caramel nougat of sleep) is between 7 and 20 minutes.  It seems for the past 3 – 4 years, my REM cycles have been averaging 18 to 25 seconds before I am awakened.  I am dragged into wakefulness because I am choking to death.  I am choking for a few reasons.

Anatomy of a Sleepy Head

There are three parts of the head that pertain to sleep: The nose, mouth and throat.  I have an awesome throat for sleeping.  My nose and mouth “need improvement”

Nose: In 1978, Brad Sorric bashed me in the face with a baseball bat. It was during little league practice.   I maintained consciousness, but it really messed up my septum.  But in 1970’s youth sports “shaking it off” was the course of treatment for getting bashed in the face with a bat.  I didn’t tell anyone who might want to investigate the injury.

Normal "bat free" nasal passages.

Normal “bat free” nasal passages.

Simulation of Pete's "bashed" septum.

Simulation of Pete’s “bashed” septum.

overbiteMouth: From 1972 until 1984, I was strapped with braces (with the exception of 1978, when all my baby teeth were pulled to allow for my adult teeth to grow in faster). My sizable overbite was deemed correctable, and with a Godfather who was an orthodontist, there was ample opportunity to make these corrections.

Metal was banned to my teeth to allow for a series of straps and wires to pull my mouth around until it looked aesthetically pleasing to my parents and their friends.  The process worked to their satisfaction.

The side-effects of this process are now beginning to emerge.  My mouth is too small for its assets.

Mouth Types

Our mouths can be categorized into four classes.  A Class One mouth has lots of room.  A female or gay male with a class one mouth could do very well in the pornography industry.  Most normal Americans have a Class Two or Three mouth;  just the right amount of stuff for the space.   I have a Class Four + mouth.  This means my tongue and other junk in there are likely normal, but the housing is too small.  This isn’t great for unconscious breathing.

To summarize; when you have a blocked nasal passage and too much mouth for the space, a person snores quite loudly.  There are other effects too.

Episodes Beginning in 2011, I began having episodes in my sleep.  I would awake with an accelerated heart rate and rapid breathing and dizziness.  During four of these episodes, the symptoms were so great that it was a sensible decision to go to the emergency room for further investigation.  The ER team would conduct all kinds of expensive tests to ensure that I wouldn’t die while on their watch.

Theses seemed to baffle everyone charged with the task of figuring out why these were happening.  They never did.

Enter Mayo Clinic I believe that every person is given a gift in life.  While there may be things that get in the way of accepting the gift, we all have opportunities to take.  In my case, the gifts have been throughout my life.  The latest one came in the form of an offer to visit the Mayo Clinic.  I accepted the gift. (Continued)

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