I just let a bunch of strangers watch me sleep

Sweet dreams.

(It was not a sex thing.)

(At least, not on my end. Maybe the strangers got off.)

This was a medical thing: a procedure called a polysomnogram, A.K.A. a sleep study.

I suffer from Night Terrors. Actually, my wife suffers from them. I don’t remember them at all. During the night, I yell and thrash, emitting blood-curdling screams like someone is about it kill me. I have no idea who or what these invisible monsters are. I wake up perfectly refreshed, next to a woman with P.T.S.D. She obviously hates my medical condition, because 1) her sleep is ruined, and 2) I scream things like “please… not me… take her.”*

(*this is a joke)

I have finally relented, in embarrassment and shame, to her long-standing request that I seek medical help.

The initial consultation with my sleep doctor did not go well. I screwed up and told him that I was a comedian. This is always a colossal mistake. As all comedians know, what we do for a living is disgusting and wrong, and should remain a cancerous secret. As soon as I tell people, I feel the need to entertain conversation partners on the spot. Which is another way of saying: I bombed in front of the sleep doctor.

Doctor: What do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a comedian.

Doctor: Interesting. You know, I’ve heard a lot of comedians kill themselves.

Me: Is that a prescription?

Doctor: No.

Me: I was joking.

Doctor: I see. We’re going to do a study where we videotape you sleeping.

Me: Can I get a copy of that for Instagram?

Doctor: No, that would not be appropriate.

Me: I was joking.

Doctor: I see. You’ll need to stay overnight next Wednesday, and follow your usual sleep routine.

Me: Is there an upper-limit on stuffed animals?

Doctor: The room is 8 x 12 feet.

Me: I was joking.

Doctor: I see.

So, I was more on edge than usual when I showed up for my actual overnight sleep study, on a nondescript office floor in midtown Manhattan. The plan was to videotape me sleeping while hooked up to a bunch of equipment, and try to find out what the problem was.

My room looked like a $70-a-night motel: not the worst place I’ll ever sleep, but hopefully in the top twenty. There were a few mystery goo streaks on the wall that I told myself were normal. There were also scratches and scuffs on the wall, presumably made by my fellow night terror patients.

If Motel 6 ran hospitals.

There was a weird circular opening right by the bed, into the hallway, that I can only describe as a medical glory hole. I was desperate to know its function, but too embarrassed to ask.

Medical glory hole.

Thank God, the doctor I bombed in front of was not there. Instead, a very sweet male nurse named Muqtar took care of me. I liked Muqtar a great deal. I just wish he had not seen so much of me in my underpants.

Word of advice, if you ever do a sleep study: wear pajamas. It took Muqtar twenty minutes to mount all the sensors on my legs, chest, face etc. During this time, I just sat, very vulnerable, in a pair of underpants with “Big Ben” stenciled across the rear, and an image of London’s most famous clock printed over my crotch.

Muqtar was deliberate and attentive. I was nearly naked, and felt like an ancient Chinese concubine being prepared for a night with the Emperor… if the Emperor had a tech fetish. Was I being transformed into some kind of cyber rent-boy? Would I fall asleep and get sucked into a Matrix/Tron/Nightmare-On-Elm-Street electro-sodomy-verse, then be helplessly double-teamed all night by Morpheus and The Lawnmower Man? Probably.

Reminder, I looked like this:

Muqtar said he might need to come into my room during the night, to adjust equipment if it became dislodged while I slept.

Me: OK. Will you knock first?

Muqtar: No.

Me: Oh.

Muqtar: We try to let you rest.

Me: That should make for a restful night, Muqtar. Opening my eyes to a man in scrubs adjusting wires on my face at 3am.

Muqtar: Hmm?

Me: Nothing.

Muqtar gently helped me into bed. You can’t really move that much with all the wires and equipment on you, so there’s no following your regular nighttime routine. Forget skimming a novel or sipping some chamomile. The nurse clicks off the light and you just stare at a glowing red digital clock on the wall, counting down the night, by the second.

The scary clock on the wall.

It was at this point that I felt the most embarrassed. All this ridiculous equipment, just because I screamed in fear during the night? Was this really a medical problem, or just psychological? I imagined seeing the doctor a second time: “I have your results, Mr Cowell. You are what we in sleep medicine call… a scared little girl. It’s very common. I’ll be prescribing you some big boy pants.”

As always with big things you’re afraid of, the night was pretty uneventful. I woke up four times. Muqtar had to come in just once, to adjust the finger sensor and hear me yell: “F*CK! Oh, it’s you…” I don’t know if I had any actual Night Terrors. But I never know.

Control room where people saw me in my underpants today.

I woke up five minutes before the study was supposed to end. That’s an interesting moment, when where you realize a bunch of strange nurses with night-vision cameras can 100% see your morning boner. Also, I wasn’t sure if the camera had audio, so I held all farts.

After Muqtar took off the sensors, I took a shower and got dressed. Before leaving, I stopped at the front desk to do a medical questionnaire. The best question: “would you say last night’s sleep was typical?” Oh, yes. I typically sleep with five male nurses staring at me on a webcam, tied up in Ethernet cords. I’m not a weirdo.

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