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Adventures of a Sleep Technologist

Chapter 4

Go to Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 5 (Chapter 6 coming)
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to be used or published in any other form. Last update 10/14/04

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Chapter 4

Wide Eyes

It began as a normal day. I’d been a sleep tech for more than a year and some of the excitement of being in a new field wore off and it became a real job.

The mystery of the smell with the sleep apnea patients was still a mystery. I began my own research and hoped to find a connection. I tried to correlate the intensity of the smell with the average oxygen desaturation for each patient. The first problem was how to quantify the smell, no equipment would give me the numbers I’d need so using my nose and a scale from 1 to 10, I would give the smells a number. One was no smell and a 10 was the strongest. Biggest problem with my smell scale was, since the odors were coming from the body and the breath, it would vary from patient to patient. Some patients had a strong body odor with little breath smell, some the opposite, and some both. I found a correlation between changes in oxygen saturation and the smell but was not ready to publish anything. I focused on blood gas changes as the prime cause. My hypothesis was the chemical balance of the fluids in the body changed and resulted in a distinct breath and body order. I tried to get others involved but no one seemed to care too much about the smell so I was on my own. I will come back to this later.

During my first year other sleep techs came and went. The average amount of time for a sleep technologist to stay at the clinic was 6 months. They decided either they didn’t want to stay up all night or they left for a sleep lab that paid better money. My pay started at $4 an hour and after a year jumped all the way up to $5 with medical benefits. This was just enough to rent a room in a two-story house in the San Francisco Bay area. I had no kitchen privileges but had a private bathroom. My bedroom was large enough to do a little yoga when I woke up each day around 2pm. I found that after doing some yoga stretching exercises for about 45 minutes, it would relieve the soreness & headache I always had upon rising due to the time of day, quality of sleep, and a very soft bed.

The lab staffed three sleep techs and it had become my job to train the new technologist. I trained a few techs who continued on in the field and I tried training many that didn't make it through the two-week trial period. There wasn’t a rush of people wanting to be sleep technologist.

I began scoring a lot of sleep recordings during my off hours. The lab constantly got behind on scoring the patient recordings due to the number of patients and the lack of technologist. They started a program where I was paid $15 dollars for every recording I scored and it didn't matter how long it took. I began scoring right away. I was able to score a record in about an hour and a half, so I made more scoring than I did by the hour in the lab. I started honing in on some techniques to speed up my scoring including a method of turning pages at a rate of 100 per minute, which meant if they didn't change sleep stages all night I would be done in 10 minutes. Not much luck with that one, very few patients could sleep without many changes in sleep stage, but I was able to speed up the process. I continued to score and noticed some patients, especially narcoleptics, only took 30 minutes to score, so scoring became my second life. I averaged $25 an hour scoring and since the lab was always behind in scoring I could score as many as I wanted.

I held on to the one room accommodation to save a little money. I was not getting rich but I was able to travel back to Georgia to visit family once or twice a year.

As I said in the beginning of this chapter, it began as normal day and I was taking care of MSLT's. Arriving at my usual time, I had to rush around and get everyone ready for the first nap. There was not much time to talk. I quickly removed the electrodes not used for naps and added the extra eye electrodes to help look for rapid eye movement. After getting the first two patients ready I walked down the hall to the next room. I noticed one of our patients coming down the hall from the other direction toward me. He was easy to spot with all the electrodes still on his face. I figured he must have been for a short walk or perhaps to get something to eat. He was a tall thin black man with short hair, round face and eyes that were spread far apart, in fact, I had never seen eyes that spread as far apart as his before. With time running out, I rushed through the final preparations with everyone. The only thing I found out about Wide Eyes was he came from Oklahoma and was a doctor.

The first nap went as planned. There were no problems with the equipment. This was 1980 and Sandfort still saw the classic severe narcoleptic patients from around the world. Two of the three patients went into REM sleep in less than 15 minutes including Wide Eyes. As soon as the first nap was over, I went in and unhooked each patient and asked the standard questions that were posted on the wall.

1) “Did you sleep?” (Yes or No response required.)
2) “How long did it take you to fall asleep?” (I only asked this if they said they slept.)
3) “Do you remember any dreams?” (I always asked this one even if they said they didn't sleep. Often they would say: “Well you know I didn't think I slept but I do remember a dream so I must have fallen asleep”.) I recorded all of the information on their chart hanging on the wall next to their bed.
4) They wrote down the dream, if they had one, on another piece of paper, which we kept with their records.

After the questions I talked to them about the importance of staying awake between naps, avoiding caffeine, including drinks like Mountain Dew, and not smoking 20 minutes before naps, etc. Since this group seemed to be more alert than most, I wasn't too concerned with them dozing off between naps and decided I would just check on them from time to time while I read. Well, that was the plan.

After unhooking and briefing all three patients I went back into my lab, set up the equipment for the next nap, and began reading the last book written by GI Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson. I really enjoyed being able to read while working. I had a lot of time to read during the night and between naps during the day. This was an interesting book and while reading, Wide Eyes walked into the lab, my back was turned towards him, but I sensed him gliding across the room and felt him looking over my shoulder.

"Gurdjieff!” he exclaimed. “Very good reading, read him years ago, even joined one of his clubs and practiced whirling with the Dervishes."

Not expecting him or his comment, I was somewhat startled by the sound of his voice and quickly asked, "You like reading Gurdjieff?"

"Oh yes, he is a very good read,” he responded. “I have read his books and learned a lot but have moved on to much better readings."

“I've been looking for new books to read,” I said. I mentioned some of the books I had been reading including books by PD Ouspensky and Carlos Castanada, and asked him if he knew some good books related to their topics. To my amazement he began telling me about his library of books in his home. He described a hidden library with many book titles and authors I had never heard of, but they all seemed very interesting.

“I am curious why you need to be studied here to see if you have narcolepsy,” I said. “I would expect that one of the other doctors at your hospital could make the diagnosis".

"The hospital wants me to work different shifts.” Wide eyes responded. “ It is nearly impossible for me, but since they don't believe I have narcolepsy they sent me here to get the official diagnosis."

"Well you came to the right place.” I said with pride. “We have people coming in from all over the world to be diagnosed for sleep disorders and we have the best reputation in the field for the diagnosis and treatment of narcolepsy. I am curious, how long do you feel like you have had narcolepsy?" I asked.

"I began having symptoms as a young child,” he responded. “I had lots of trouble during college and have been taking Ritalin to help me stay awake for many years now”.
"How were you able to make it through medical school with narcolepsy?” I asked, “It must have been a nightmare”.

“I made it through school using a special technique of self-hypnosis which a professor taught me as an undergraduate,” Wide Eyes responded. “He was one of the best hypnotist I have ever known. I remember once he had the entire class under within a few minutes without any of them knowing. We became close friends and he taught me a special form of self-hypnosis. Under it you can remember anything you have heard or read which meant I didn't have to stay up all night studying, it would also work for remembering where you left your keys”.

"Do you hypnotize other people?” I asked curiously. “Could you hypnotize me?”
“Yes I can and if you like, I can give you a short example between naps,” he responded.
“Do you think you could teach me self hypnosis, my memory isn't the best in the world now days?” I asked.
"Maybe under hypnosis I can teach you self-hypnosis but we should do a test run first," he replied.
"Great, I have never been hypnotized," I responded.
"It should not be difficult, you just have to allow it to happen," he said with confidence. "If it can be done in less than an hour then lets do it between one of the naps today, if that is OK with you?" I asked.
"No problem,” he replied. “We should be able to do it in thirty minutes.”

I noticed the clock. "Time to start getting ready for the next nap,” I said. “We will have to continue this later".
"By the way, what is your name?" Wide Eyes asked.
"They call me ‘Sandman’ around here." I replied.
"Sandman you say, it fits you, I could have guessed it,” Wide eyes responded. “My name is Doctor Morphidonalus, everyone calls me Doctor Morph,” and with that he left for his room.

My mind wondered, “Is this guy for real or what?” I decided to find out as much as I could about him. I checked his chart and noticed no history of any mental disorders. In fact it looked to be very normal. But he was diagnosed with narcolepsy many years back and I had heard hundreds of amazing stories from many narcoleptics. Could this be just another story? I had about an hour and a half between naps to work with him, enough time to get to know him better and hopefully make a decision about his authenticity.

I started the naps as soon as possible. All three patients went to sleep quickly. One of the other patients and Wide Eyes had REM sleep onset periods during the nap. That made it two REM onsets after the first two naps for wide eyes. This was an indication that he may have narcolepsy, but REM later on in the day would be a better indicator. I was eager to continue my conversation with him after the nap.

We made a quick decision to try the hypnosis that afternoon, after the nap following lunch. I needed to run some errands so I wouldn’t see Wide Eyes again until the third nap.

The third nap was almost a repeat of the first two for wide eyes, sleep within a minute and REM shortly after. About 5 minutes into the nap the phone rang. I made a dive for the phone, didn’t want the ring to wake patients.

“Hello, sleep lab, can I help you?” I asked quietly.
“Hi Sandman, how is it going today?” It was Sheila, the chief technologist.
“Great, but I was a little late starting this nap,” I replied. “I’m, in the middle of it right now so can I call you back?”
“Sure no hurry,” she said.
“Ok bye,” I responded as quietly as possible.

I checked the recording to see if any of the patients were aroused from the ring and none seemed bothered by it. I noticed, during the conversation with Sheila, Wide Eyes went into REM sleep.

Sheila was still in charge of the lab. She started just before I did but had been in the field for a couple years. I found her to be a very special person and a great woman to work for. She always stood up for us techs when needed, she worked days and I usually worked nights and since we were in different buildings we rarely saw each other.

At the end of the nap I went in to wake up Wide Eyes. I noticed his eyes were twitching rapidly. “Oh Doc it’s time to get up,” I said. Wide Eyes didn’t reply. “Doctor Morph the nap is over,” I repeated, this time much louder. Wide Eyes didn’t move so I gently shook him for a few seconds before his eyes popped open and he looked at me.

“Did you sleep?” I asked. In the previous naps, he had responded ‘yes’.
“No I don’t think so,” he said.
“Really?” I asked. “Did you have a dream?”
“Not that I can recall,” he responded.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Pretty sure,” he responded. “I’m positive I could hear everything happening the entire time. I heard nurses pushing carts up and down the hall and talking. I even heard your phone ring and your conversation”.
“What did I say on the phone?” I asked in amazement.
“You told the person you were late starting the nap and if you could call back later,” he said.
“That’s funny!” I replied. “I’m sure I checked your recording while I was talking on the phone and you were in REM sleep”.

“Now it’s coming back to me,” he said. “I didn’t just hear, I actually saw the nurses walking up and down the hall and I was in the room with you when the phone rang. My conscious must have been in my etheric body and it must have gone for a stroll while I slept”.

“Etheric body?” I asked with wonder. “I don’t think I’ve heard of that one before.”
“Well it’s the closest non-physical body to your physical self,” he replied. “It looks exactly as you do and moves the way you do, usually while you are asleep. I’ll recommend a good book for you if you want some details on it”.
“That would be great,” I responded with curiosity.

“Are you ready for the hypnosis experiment?” he asked.
“Sure am,” I answered.
Doctor Morph and I walked back to the sleep lab. “OK!” he said, “pick a comfortable chair and have a seat”.
“Before we start Doc, will I be able to remember what happens?” I asked.
“Yes!” he responded, “I’m gong to give you the command to remember everything that is said and what happens, so you will have total recall”.
“OK,” I said, “I’m ready.” I sat back slowly in my chair. When he began to speak his voice changed to a very deep and monotonous sound.

“Look up and pick a spot on the ceiling, any spot, and start staring at it,” he said slowly. “Keep staring and try not to blink your eyes as much as possible, just continue staring……… Become aware of your breathing……Your body is beginning to relax; your legs are becoming very relaxed….. Now your arms are feeling very relaxed. The relaxation is spreading throughout your body. You are totally relaxed. Your eyes are starting to become a little tired but continue staring at the spot……. Now, your eyes are becoming more and more tired, soon you won’t be able to keep them open and they will close on their own………”.

In a couple of minutes my eyes closed.

“You are now totally relaxed,” he continued. “You will be fully conscious and remember everything I say and what happens. First picture yourself floating on a cloud. You are weightless and drifting slowly in the sky. Gradually the cloud will drift down to the earth. When the cloud touches land nod your head”.

I visualized that I was on a cloud. I could look around and saw a beach with a desert like mountain behind it, a calm ocean and lots of white sand. After a few minutes the cloud landed on the beach and I nodded. I felt totally conscious and not sure if I was hypnotized or just visualizing what I wanted to see with my imagination.

“Slowly open your eyes now,” he said smoothly. “Remain lying on the cloud still weightless and totally relaxed…… Your right arm is starting to become lighter than air……….. soon it will begin to float up……”

Moments later, through no will of my own, I felt my arm floating up about two feet above the arm rest. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my arm moving and the feeling weightless overwhelmed me. I knew I wasn’t just imagining this, my arm was actually floating without any effort on my part.

“Now your arm will float back down to the original position and your eyes will close again,” he continued.

As soon as he ended his last word my arm started floating back down, again without any will of my own. I had never felt anything like it. Then my eyes closed.

“Remember how your body feels now,” he said. “Whenever you want to relax just repeat the process. Relaxation will come to you as soon as the cloud touches the earth. When I snap my finger, you will wake up. You will feel great and you will remember everything”.

I heard his fingers snap.

My eyes opened and the first thing I noticed was how relaxed I felt.

“How do you feel?” he asked.
"I can't remember when I've felt so relaxed," I responded. Yes, it was true, never had I felt the calmness & peace that enveloped my entire body.
“Do you remember everything that happened?” he asked.
“Yes everything,” I answered, or at least I thought I had.
“I was surprised how easy you went under, it usually takes much longer,” he said.

I looked up at the clock.

“Oh no, I am late again,” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe I’ve been sitting here this long.”

I began moving quickly, going from room to room, checking electrodes, and preparing everyone for the next nap. I had everyone in bed and the nap started about ten minutes late.

This time only Wide Eyes went into REM sleep. Four REM onsets out of four naps was not a common occurrence. I left the lab and went from room to room to finalize the nap. Doctor Morph strolled into the sleep lab just as I finished up with the equipment. He carried a pen and a piece of paper.

“I’m going to give you a list of books I think will help you understand about our other bodies,” he said. “There are five bodies you should learn about”.

“Great!” I said, “I would like to learn what is going on here, particularly the etheric body you mentioned after the third nap. I have read many books about astral bodies and astral travel, many books by Lobsang Rampa who told some great stories about out of the body astral traveling, but I haven’t heard of the Etheric Body”.

“The etheric body is sometimes called the etheric double,” he replied. “If you have a dream and you can see yourself and you move by walking, you are in your etheric body. Nowadays I do a lot of work in the astral plane. In fact I train astral bodies using mine while I am sleeping”.

“What do you mean by training astral bodies?” I asked.

“Well they’re those who don’t know how to fly, so I will take them up in the air and show them how to fly back to earth,” he replied slowly. “I take them one step at a time until they can manage on their own. You need to learn more about our other bodies. The best, but most difficult to read books, are by a lady named Blavatsky, especially her Secret Doctrine which contains many volumes. It could take a lifetime to read and understand. A lady named Besant has many volumes, some equally as difficult but right on target. I think that you should begin with a couple books by an author named Powell who doesn’t actually write books from his own thoughts, but he takes bits and pieces of information from a huge collection of theosophical books, including the ones I’ve mentioned, and puts the information in easy to understand modern language. First, start with the Etheric Double, then Astral Body, next The Mental Body, and then Causal Body and the Ego. I think you will find those books fascinating. After reading those you can try books like At the Feet of the Master, The Art and Practice of Astral Projection,…….”.

The list went on and on, I was writing as fast as I could, I checked the spelling on some of the names. The list continued to grow and grow.

“That is a lot of books,” I said. “I wish I didn’t read so slow. I like reading but it takes me a long time to read a book”.
“I had a problem reading slow too,” he replied, “I had to learn a speed reading technique to help me out”.
“Which one, Evelyn Woods?” I asked.

“Oh no!” he exclaimed. “The teacher who taught me self-hypnosis showed me a technique. It’s very simple. First you read the book up side down and from the back to the front, not actually trying to read each word but just looking at each page focusing in the middle of the page. Just look at the page and turn to the next. Once you’ve gone through the book from back to front, you begin right side up, this time from the beginning to the end. Just look at the page long enough for your eyes to take a picture snap shot and then go to the next. You will be turning pages about as fast as you can turn them once you get the hang of it. You will need to go though the book several times in both directions before you will be able to not only understand what it was about, but you will be able to remember every thing in the book. It took a lot of practice but it works for me”.

“Wow, I’ve never heard of this before,” I replied. “It sounds a little difficult to me”.

“Well it works with easy reading books like novels much better than technical books like the ones in medical school,” he responded. “With most of them, I had to use the slow, word-to-word method and it worked well with my self-hypnosis technique”.

“I will give it a try,” I said.
“Start with an easy book and work yourself up,” he replied.

I looked at the clock and noticed it was time to get things ready for the last nap.

“How long are you going to be in town?” I asked.
“I fly back in 2 days,” he replied, “I’m staying near here at the Holiday Inn”.
“Well I know you will be needing some real sleep after all you have been through today,” I said. “How about getting together tomorrow. I’d really like to talk to you more about these things”.
“I’d like that,” he said, “I have an appointment at the Sleep Clinic tomorrow at 11:00am. I should be through with it by 12:30, come by the hotel around 1:00”.

“Sounds good to me,” I said. “That will give us time to check out a special bookstore I know that sells the books you are talking about”.

“That would be wonderful!” he replied. “Finding a really good bookstore in Oklahoma is hard to do. I would love to see a good esoteric California bookstore. I usually order all my books. I want to be the first person to touch and read it. I’ve learned that the first time a book is read the author’s true meaning comes out, but after someone has read it some of his meaning is lost. I can also teach you self-hypnosis while you are under tomorrow if you like”.

“I’d really like to learn how,” I said.

“I can also try to let you experience astral travel while you are under if you feel up to it,” Wide Eyes offered.

“Sounds good to me,” I replied, “OK Doctor Morph, lets get this last nap over so we can get out of here”.
“I’m ready Sandman,” he replied, “lets rock.”

Everything went smoothly for the last nap. Everyone slept and again Wide Eyes had REM sleep. Five out of five, this was very rare indeed and a strong finding for the diagnosis of narcolepsy.

After the last nap and after taking care of all the equipment, I felt the need to go down to my favorite pub, the Oasis. The events of the day had given me mass quantities of energy and my head was spinning with ideas and questions. Was Doctor Morph for real? Could he be talking about some hallucinations he may have had and believed? For some reason I felt he was more real than most people I knew. Would he become my mentor? The questions kept running around in my head. What would it be like tomorrow? Would I be safe?

I made it to the pub and played pinball to wind down. After a few games, some food, and a beer I wandered to my room on the second floor a few blocks away. That night I had many strange dreams but woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. At least I thought I was ready.

Go to Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5

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