Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Boot camp: come for the camaraderie, stay for the pain

Last night’s glorious windows-wide-open weather almost made up for the fact that I barely slept.

When I put my head down at midnight, I struggled to fall asleep. After I managed to conk out, I woke up at least once an hour. At 5:07 a.m., I declared my extended nap done, put on a pot of coffee, and decided to make the best of the situation by going to boot camp at 6.

Some people would view going to boot camp at 6 a.m. as making the worst of it, but I love the class. We exercise outdoors, the instructors push and encourage us, and I’ve really bonded with the other campers. Even when my body doesn’t feel like going, my spirit does. As I walked out the door at 5:52 and reveled in the 65 degree temps, I thought, spectacular weather and a workout with friends…what could be better?

A lot of things, it turns out.

During the warm-up, our instructor, Chris, fired a warning shot.

“We’re going to do something a little different today,” he said, which translates to: “After this, you won’t be able to flare your nostrils without wincing.”

Chris told us we’d have to do five exercises: push-ups, band-resisted squats, sit-ups, burpees and overhead claps. It sounded almost benign until he told us to repeat each exercise 250 times before moving on to the next one. Squats, sit-ups and overhead claps might be manageable, but two hundred-fifty push-ups and burpees? I might accumulate that total over the course of a month, but definitely not an hour.

For those unacquainted with the burpee,  Wikipedia describes it as “a full body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise.” I would have tacked on, “in Hell,” but whatever.

To execute a burpee, you start from a standing position and do the following:

  1. Drop down into a squat and place your hands on the ground, on the outside of your foot.
  2. Kick both feet back so that you’re now in a pushup position.
  3. Kick your feet forward again, right back to the spot in between your hands.
  4. Stand straight up.

It’s a simple move and you can do it anywhere – hotel room, parking lot, prison cell. After you knock out three sets of ten, you’ll have taxed your core, exhausted your quads and depleted your life forces. Vomiting is optional.

 If you’re wondering how this exercise came into existence, it was created in the 1930s by a physiologist named Royal H. Burpee. (Burpee is also how you feel after you’ve done a few dozen.) I know what you’re thinking –with a name like Royal H. Burpee, the transition to sadism was just a matter of time– but this move began as a fitness test that was meant to be repeated just a few times. The military, which is always on the lookout for advances in misery, began to inflict dizzying numbers of burpee reps on recruits at basic training. Civilians and yuppies figured out they could get a piece of the action without enlisting by just paying fitness instructors for access to this exciting new form of torture.

But before I could even get to the burpees this morning, I had to knock out 250 push-ups, band-resisted squats and situps.

I did 10 full-blown push-ups and then, on realizing my triceps were about to be fully blown, switched to the kneeling plank position to do the rest. I felt almost giddy about the prospect of switching to squats. That giddiness carried through the first 100 squats and I gritted my teeth through the next 150. By this time, my core was wising up. When I moved on to the sit-ups, it opted to save its best effort for those burpees and quit after 200 reps.

I took a few sips of water, a risky move when you’re on the verge of burpee-ing, but I needed a stall tactic. After a brief rest, I knocked out the first 30 burpees at a break-neck pace. My pace on the next 30 was decidedly break-spirit. After rep number 60, I could barely manage a break-wind pace.

As I got to 100, Chris came over to me and said, “Time’s running out.” I figured he meant my earthly suffering had ended and I’d earned the right to start walking toward the proverbial light. Nope. I’d earned the right to do 250 overhead claps, which I executed as “near ear flaps.”

Oh what a beautiful morning, indeed.

Sleep Numbers

I apologize for the delay in reporting the results of my sleep study.  Several people noticed that my October 3rd appointment date had come and gone and they started to ask me about it, in rather impatient tones.  None of them came right out and said, “You’re up for half the night, WHY THE H&^$ AREN’T YOU WRITING THE $^&-ING BLOG?!?” but I could tell they were thinking it.

I soon figured out what was driving their acute interest in my sleep.  It’s not so much that they’re worried about my well-being as they’re constantly on the lookout for new weapons to deploy in the Global War On Spousal Snoring. Since I’m nothing if not an expert on all things marital, I’m delighted to be of service.

I went back to see the doctor last Wednesday.  He handed me a report that contained my sleep study stats, and they do not add up to apnea:

  • Time in the bed: 419 min
  • Time Sleeping: 259 min (62%)
  • REM sleep total: 36 min (14%)
  • Time awake after sleep onset: 117 min.
  • Number of “Arousals”: 79.  (For the gutter-minded who immediately thought, “Well no wonder she’s up all night,”  I regret to inform you that one of your favorite romantic euphemisms also moonlights as a scientific term for snoring yourself awake.)
  • No limb movements
  • No cardiac arrhythmias
  • Heart rate while awake: 47.5 BPM
  • Heart rate while asleep: 47 BPM.
  • Oxygen saturation while awake: 99%
  • Oxygen saturation while asleep: 92%

After walking me through the numbers, the doctor said, “Your sleep architecture doesn’t indicate a physiological issue beyond snoring.”  Maybe not, but I’m pretty sure any building with my architecture would be condemned.

I said, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to hear I won’t have to wear that mask…but what do I do now?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” he said, all smiles and reassurance.  “There’s a product now that treats the snoring. If you can manage not to disrupt your sleep in the first place, then your problem of being awake for long periods might solve itself.”

This sounded great until he started telling me about the product, which is basically a high-tech adhesive that you place under each nostril.  That’s right: I’m gonna solve my problems with nose stickers.  Then he handed me the product literature.  It has a photo that depicts a woman in a state of restful slumber, looking perfectly natural for someone who’s snorted a butterfly.

When the guy in the background catches a glimpse of the nose stickers and dumps her, I hope she uses this photo in her online dating profile.

On seeing my reaction, he shifted topics and began to describe different techniques I could use to try to slow my racing mind.  He mentioned progressive muscle relaxation, where you start at your toes and do a flex/stretch combination that you repeat as you slowly work your way up your body.

This might work for people who have normal minds, but I’m pretty sure mine wouldn’t make it past my knees before it got distracted and started singing “Dem Bones.”

The doctor suggested a second technique called creative imagery, which involves mentally sending yourself to a specific happy location from your childhood. Here’s hoping Mom has some good womb photos.



The Not-So-Young and the Restless

[Part II of II…]

I showed up at the lab at 8:45 on the night of my sleep study, just as instructed.

For some reason I felt a little nervous. Maybe I feared that my horrific sleep habits would miraculously self-correct for just one night, like a car that spews smoke all the way home but refuses to emit the tiniest puff when you take it into the shop.

A bunch of other sleep study victims sat in the lobby.  I wandered over and joined the clump of full-grown adults clutching their pillows.   At 9 p.m. a technician escorted us to the second floor and a suite of three rooms.  She pointed me toward the second room and opened the door.

I hadn’t given much thought to what my sleeping quarters would look like.  I just assumed they would involve a standard-issue hospital bed and maybe one of those one-way windows police use to watch interrogations.

I was surprised to walk in and find a queen-size bed with attractive linens and a large bathroom with complimentary toiletries.  It looked like an above average hotel, only instead of buying the “bed and breakfast” deal, I’d sprung for the “wires up your nose” package.

After I changed into my pajamas—plaid boxers and a ratty T-shirt—a different technician came in to do prep work.  He began by taking gauze, applying some sort of citrus-scented cream to it, and wiping it on my face.  I felt like I was being dusted with Pledge.

My sleep study uniform. Between these PJs and my snoring, it’s totally weird that I’m single.

He put some on my scalp, too, and then started attaching electrodes to me.

This part of the process takes a while so we had time to chat.  He asked what led me to come to the lab, and I mentioned my friend’s concern for my long-term health, among other reasons.

He nodded and said, “Your friend is right, you know.”


He went on to describe an article he’d read about a two-week sleep deprivation experiment that had been conducted on rats.  The researchers divided the rats into two groups.  One group of rats could eat, drink and sleep as they pleased.  The other group was given food and water, but any time those rats started to nod off, they got a jolt of electrical stimulation to keep them awake.

“What happened to the sleep-deprived rats after two weeks?” I asked, expecting him to tell me they showed a tendency to nod off during meetings and while driving.

“They died,” he said, guaranteeing that my sleep study results would show that I’d had at least one nightmare.

By this time he had attached so many electrodes to my face that I felt like a teenager in one of those 1970s-era acne commercials, only those teenagers didn’t have wires coming out of their zits.

The technician attached another set of electrodes to my legs and inserted two sets of wires up my nose.  Then, after putting a red lighted thing on my finger that made me look like E.T., he turned out the lights and left.

Within moments, his voice entered my room through an intercom.  I didn’t even realize I’d phoned home.

“Can you hear me?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said.

“Okay, great. Now I want you to open your eyes and blink five times.”  I obeyed. “Now look left and right three times.”  I did as instructed.  Then he told me to clear my throat three times, wiggle my left foot, and then wiggle my right.

After two more rounds of the hokey pokey, he told me to go ahead and conk out.

In a state of such natural repose, sleep took a mere 45 minutes to arrive instead of the usual 90. After that, though, my insomnia really came through in the clutch.

It woke me up about two hours into my sleep, and then it fired up the hamster wheel in my brain, which spent the next hour and a half cycling through a series of crucial, gotta-think-this-now thoughts, such as, “Have they figured out where the word ‘twerk’ came from?”

At some point I fell back to sleep, but any danger of staying there was eliminated when I kicked off an electrode and the technician had to intervene.

At 4:40 a.m., I had done all the sleeping I was gonna do.  But like a little kid, I had to stay in my room until he told me to come out because he had to officially end the study.

I didn’t realize these things had closing ceremonies.

We extinguished the proverbial torch by playing the hokey pokey one last time.

By 5:30 a.m., I was back home, ready to take on the day, and a very big nap. I’m less excited about taking on the study results.  I’m scheduled to face the music, or maybe the mask, on October 3…Anyone want to start an over/under?

Sweet dreams are made of these?

As a child, I often struggled to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. I never outgrew that pattern, so insomnia has dogged me pretty much my whole life. In college and law school I saw it as something of a boon, giving me hours of potentially productive time that most other people wasted counting sheep.

But I haven’t been in school for over a decade, and during that time the insomnia has only gotten worse.  Add middle age to the equation and you get a person whose sleep pattern is like an NFL game: three or four hours long with constant interruptions for short bursts of vapid content.

When I wake up for good, usually around 4 a.m., I feel fine.  But by 9 a.m. I’m fighting inappropriate urges to nod off while doing normal daytime activities, like operating a chain saw.

A good friend who stayed with me recently couldn’t help but notice my sleeping habits, and they worried him.

“You can’t get by on three or four hours a night,” he said, citing a litany of long-term health risks like stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure.

I was moved by his concern and about to say as much when he added, “and I can hear you snore through the walls.”

Nothing will send an unattached female to seek medical attention faster than telling her she sleeps like Homer Simpson.

I called the Virginia Hospital Center’s Sleep Lab and set up an intake appointment.  There, the (very attractive) doctor asked me questions about my sleep habits and managed not to snicker when I got to the part about snoring the walls down.  He declared me a good sleep study candidate and gave me a brief overview of the process.

“Once we do the study,” he said, “we should know a lot more about why you’re not sleeping.  And if your issues stem from sleep apnea, like many people’s do, then these could solve your problems.”  He gestured to a tray.

It held a mask that bore a striking resemblance to the one worn by Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, along with several other libido-busters masquerading as sleep disorder treatment devices.  I was warming up to the idea of heart failure.

“I know you already know this,” I said, “but I’m a single, middle-aged female. Do you have any idea what that would do to my dating life?” I pointed at the mask.

“Oh, don’t worry, you don’t have to get that one,” he said. “You can get one with a pink nose.”

Oh good.  Instead of Hannibal Lecter, I could look like Porky Pig.

According to the Sleep Lab website, the appliance to which the mask connects is the size of a toaster.

As we all know, nothing jazzes up a bedroom’s decor like a hosed up toaster.

Thanks for the great image, Sleep Lab.

The doctor’s staff gave me a study date and handed me a packet of instructions on preparing for the study.  They included patently nonsensical mandates like, “Do not consume caffeine or alcohol on the day of your study,” along with more reasonable ones, like “Wear clothes.” Let’s face it: the last thing the hospital needs is a bunch of streakers, even if the sleep lab is right near the trauma unit.

[Part II comes tomorrow, or the day after that. Or let’s be honest, whenever I get my act together.]