By Anthony Del Broccolo
didn't realize I had a problem until I woke up one afternoon in
a Vons supermarket parking lot. My problem wasn't all that exciting;
I hadn't been swallowed up by the underground rave scene, nor was
I addicted to uppers, downers, or even over-the-counter nasal sprays.
I was just tired. All the time. And the only way I could cope was
to nap. All the time. Even in supermarket parking lots on double
made this particular nap alarming, however, was the fact that Vons
wasn't the worst place I had fallen asleep that afternoon. No, that
honor would belong to the right lane of the westbound 10.
driving -- I stress, driving -- out to Venice when I dozed off somewhere
west of the 405 Interchange. It wasn't a long nap -- maybe 8 seconds
total -- but it was long enough for me to drift across 3 lanes before
I was rudely awoken by the sound of my Saturn sideswiping the concrete
regaining control of the wheel -- and my bowels -- I promised myself
I would see a doctor and determine the cause of my now potentially
just as soon as I caught a few zzz's at Vons.
Upon waking up, I was frightened. Not so much for the fact that
I had nearly committed vehicular manslaughter, but because I really
don't like going to doctors. They tell me things I don't want to
hear. Things like, "You're slightly overweight." Or "You
have high cholesterol" or "You have a form of manic-depression
called cyclothymia that will require you to take lithium. Forever."
Unwilling to add yet another disorder to an already full dance card,
I waited a month before consulting a sleep clinic in the Valley.
After I shared the details of my little freeway cat-nap, they demanded
that I come in immediately for a "sleep study."
Two nights later I found myself sitting on a bed in Van Nuys, wearing
only a t-shirt and boxers, and wishing I were anywhere else. Until
my "sleep technician" walked in.
name was Felicia and she was hot. So so hot. For a brief moment,
I entertained the idea of hitting on her. Then I remembered something
important: I'm not hot. So not hot. Besides, I seriously doubted
she was in the market for an out-of-work writer who falls asleep
started by handing me a medical history form to fill out. While
I detailed my numerous accomplishments in the fields of depression,
anxiety, and general fucked-up-edness, she used green paste and
medical tape to affix cold, metal, electrode-type clamps to my temples,
chest, calves, and most enjoyably, my inner thighs. She explained
that these devices would study my brain and muscle activity while
then suggested I watch TV. Ya see, the Clinic prefers you to follow
your pre-sleep routine as closely as possible in order to extract
the truest results. No problem. 'Cuz, y'know, I always fall asleep
watching Designing Women reruns with eight fucking electrodes
clamped to my body.
soon as I lied down, my mind started racing. What if I did something
humiliating in my sleep? What if I revealed some deep, dark secret
or repressed memory? What if I had a wet dream? About Felicia? Or
my neuroses served to exhaust me, and I drifted off. At 3 AM, Felicia
woke me. The doctors had seen enough. I unclamped the electrodes,
checked my sheets for nocturnal emissions, and got the hell out
of Van Nuys as fast as I could.
the next week trying to put the whole ordeal behind me by doing
the one thing I do best -- sleep. This worked great until I was
jolted awake one evening by a frantic phone call from my general
physician. The clinic contacted him with the results of my study:
I had been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder called Sleep Apnea.
disorder?! Sleeping was the one thing I was good at! Frankly, I
was insulted. But what annoyed me more was the name. Sleep Apnea.
Apnea didn't sound like a sleeping disorder as much as it sounded
like the name of a backup dancer Prince banged circa "Raspberry
my dander sufficiently up, I marched down to my doctor's office.
Before I could speak, he put a tape labeled "Del Broccolo Sleep
Study" into his VCR and pressed play.
I'll admit, past girlfriends and roommates had politely complained
about my snoring before, but nothing could have possibly prepared
me for what I heard coming from that television.
wasn't your run-of-the-mill, fat-guy snore -- this was an atonal
symphony of snorts, gasps and wheezes, punctuated by what can only
be described as the sound of an asthmatic dragon trying to snort
cocaine out of an uncooperative elephant's asshole.
I silently apologized to anyone who ever had to sleep in the same
room with me, my Doctor explained just what the hell Sleep Apnea
was. To be brief, it's a condition that causes a sleeper's breathing
to stop for more than 10 seconds at a time. During each of these
episodes, blood oxygen levels drop, as the brain and heart both
work harder than normal to keep the blood oxygenated.
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