It seemed so straightforward when Helen explained it yesterday.
I’m to wear this watch-type thing which tells me the time – so, in fact, a watch – but it also collects data about sleep patterns. A bit like my FitBit but much clunkier, less useful and a horrid institutional grey. I’m to wear it continuously for two weeks, day and night, and then send it back in the prepaid Jiffy bag together with the sleep diary. In a year’s time, they’ll call me back and I’ll do it again.
I’ve already been through the Neurology Hokey-Cokey; waving my left arm up and down, tapping my right foot, opening and closing my fists – that’s what it’s all about. I’ve completed a quillion questionnaires, given blood, and done that dratted Montreal Cognitive test for the trillionth time (face, velvet, church, daisy, red). This will all get turned into some sort of score which the researchers will use to investigate whether there is any correlation between intensity of symptoms and sleep patterns. So far, so good.
At bedtime, I tackle the sleep diary which is intended to provide a subjective record of my night’s sleep to put alongside the objective stats from the watchy thing. The diary has example entries alongside the questions. I ink up my quill and manage What time did you get into bed? without the aid of a safety net. Just before turning off the reading light, I complete What time did you try to go to sleep? I read the rest of the questions – to be tackled in the morning – and snuggle down.
And that, Dear Reader, is where I lose the plot.
It turns out that How long did it take you to fall asleep? (example answer an impressively precise 55 mins) is much harder to answer in practice than it looks on the page. If you’re awake enough to time how long it’s taking, you’re not asleep …. so when do you stop timing? And you can’t stop timing when you’re asleep because … well. you’re asleep. I know it wasn’t one of those desperately sleepless nights when I resort to the In Our Time podcast on Wittgenstein, but did it take two minutes or twenty for me to drop off? I make a wild guess at ten and hope that the outcome of the whole study isn’t going to hang on the accuracy of these statistics.
The next question asks me How many times did you wake up, not counting your final awakening? followed by How long did these awakenings last? Example answers: 3 times; 1 hour and 10 minutes. (I love the phrase “final awakening.” It sounds so apocalyptic.)
Well, I can make neither head nor tail of last night’s sleep pattern. I have memories of thinking “am I awake? I need to remember this for the diary” as I oscillate between not quite awake and not quite asleep. There are some random times scribbled on the pad by my bed – 3 something and 5 something – but turning this into useful data is quite beyond my pay grade. How on earth did Ms Example manage it? Perhaps she is one of those coves for whom Being Awake means feeling impelled to get out of bed and tackle the ironing: then she measured out her night in ironed shirts.
In the end. I write a short essay to this effect in the box – well, they did want subjective – and trust that the data from the sleep monitor produces something more useful. I suppose I could wear my FitBit round my other wrist and let it measure my sleep for the diary but that rather feels like cheating.