It’s Your Health: Fired up

Of sleeping problems, EKG and BBC

I am going to ‘lighten up’ this week and not talk about “gloom and doom”, as a friend refers to some of my columns such as the environmental toxins series.

Although I’m presently feeling a bit of impending doom because I’m having an allergic reaction to a fire ant bite that occurred almost 2 hours ago.

I was carefully balancing along the seawall on my way to a neighbor’s boat, keeping a vigilant eye for camouflaged fire ant dwellings. My other attentive eye was watching the alligator below. Arriving unscathed, I stepped onto the grass and was immediately bitten by one ant. Usually I’m OK with a single bite — it’s benadryl for two and my epipen for an attack of three or more — but this minuscule creature was potent!

My throat isn’t closing up but every joint in my body started hurting about ten minutes ago.

You’re wondering why I don’t pop a benadryl. Ordinarily I would but I am participating in a sleep research study and all antihistamines and allergy medications are banned — which brings me to topic.

Research studies have varied criteria and protocol — often strict with no deviation. That makes sense to me, otherwise, why bother? The study would be skewed.

The precise requirements for this one were difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. No problem I thought. After a lengthy phone screening and the initial office visit consisting of an EKG, blood work, and a battery of questions ascertaining my mental health, I read and signed the 16-page consent form. The word “death” didn’t appear anywhere in the document and anyway, the location was directly across the street from the hospital. My first two night “sleep over” was scheduled for the following week.

I arrived at the appointed time, provided the required fluid sample and submitted to the mandatory Breathalyzer test (no partying on test days). Also, had my blood pressure taken, then time to get comfy in my stylish bedroom. I had an hour to relax, read, work on my computer, or watch TV before getting “hooked up” and lights out.

Great! They had BBC America, which I don’t have at home.

I settled in and thought, “I’m going to like this place albeit the goop and wires on my head at night”.

Falling asleep the first night was dicey. In addition to head and chest wires, the legs were also attached to monitor for restless leg syndrome, which was a no-no for this particular study. I was hoping I wouldn’t twitch at night, or snore, or exhibit signs of sleep apnea, all would exclude me.

First night, uneventful. Second night, no leg wires but that chef, Gordon Ramsey on the BBC, was scathing!! Maybe his nastiness will help me stay awake for an hour.

I think that’s what they want me to do since these two nights are a “test run” (paid) for the remainder of the program. But I’m extremely tired and struggle to stay awake.

My friend, George, checked in with me each morning at about 8 a.m. (He falls asleep on the couch so didn’t qualify for this Polysomnography but was accepted in another study once I vouched for his mental stability to the program director, although his girlfriend might differ).

Anyway, I had to wait until the following Monday to see if I had passed the test — not snored, twitched, or stopped breathing for a few seconds. Yes! I’m locked in now unless I don’t follow procedure on testing days and that’s not going to happen.

Why am I doing this? Well, I do have trouble sleeping, I’m augmenting science (?), and it pays well.

George and I are now wondering if there’s a pro-circuit.


Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail:

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