The quote-unquote Sleep Study
The facility is in a hospital. I meet with two men in a small conference room. The tone takes an ominous turn and that is when I learn that this is not actually a sleep study. This is one of three things but none of them is a sleep study. Either A) It is a study to see how much a person would do for $7500 or B) It is a POW torture study to get data for our military or C) It is a screening process to find new FBI agents. If you pass, they will offer you a job.But it is definitely not a sleep study. (If this Craigslist post is removed it will prove it!)
They seem to be trying to scare me out of it. I understand they are trying to weed out the fickle before they invest their time and money into you. They say everything slowly and with a serious face. You must have an IV in you the whole time. Because of the risk of infection the site must be changed regularly. They show me the catheter that goes in your arm. Huh. That's kind of weird. Not sure what that has to do with sleep but OK.
They pull out a yellow envelop and slowly draw out the 8X10 picture inside, as if they were handing me my secret agent assignment. It shows a picture of the room I will be staying in. A cold, small, hospital room with a bed, a desk and a computer. I can't leave the room for the entire month. They dim the lights in the conference room we are, at the moment, speaking in, and tell me that this is the light setting for the entire month. Wow. Depressing. Oh, and the lights will be fluorescent. I'm imagining that there will be a low humming-noise in the background at all times. Kinda reminds me of Chinese Water Torture. OK, this is not what I was envisioning at all. I was envisioning a ward of a dozen of us guinea pigs. All about college age. Playing chess together and watching TV and having a royal good time. Will I have social interaction? I ask. This would be critical given the setting or I could go crazy. They said that a nurse would come in regularly to monitor my vital signs and before bedtime someone will be supervising me so that I don't fall asleep early (because I will be sleep deprived). They said that I could interact with that someone as much or as little as I want to.
I ask the three most important questions for me. #1 Can I get online? Answer: No. Hmmmm. OK. That's gonna make it harder, but I'm still up for it. #2. Can I talk on the phone? Answer: No. Hmmmmm... Also going to be difficult. But they tell me I can write letters, so I guess I'll survive. #3. I can exercise, right? Answer: No. Whaaaaaa? Are you serious? I try not to act too outraged as I mull this over but this is really a deal breaker for me. But I just spent an hour getting here and my curiosity is piqued so I'm just going to pretend I'm still considering it and hear what other craziness they have planned. ...They did not disappoint. The reason that exercise is prohibited is because they have to measure your body temperature at all times and they want it to remain steady. You can't even do Tai Chi or excessive stretching. Okaaay. This is getting weird. And... duh-duh-duh.. They will be measuring your body temperature the entire time... rectally! They pull out a freakin' telephone cord and say that this will be up your ass the whole time. Freakin magic-jack in my butt for a month! This telephone cord literally has a plug that goes in the wall. I don't even see anything on the end that would measure a temperature. It's just a plain old gray wire. This is when I decided that it is not a sleep study. I seriously looked around and wondered if this was some sort of joke. Am I on TV? A show called, What People Would Do For $7,500? But I played it cool. I was dying to hear how much further they would take this. Sure, sure. Magic-jack in my butt. Got it. No big deal. Although, a part of me is nervous that I will be on that TV show and I am going to end up looking like a total idiot.
If I have to go to the bathroom during the sleep period I can't get out of bed. I have to call the nurse and use a bed pan. I can just hold it, I tell them. No. No. We don't want you to hold it. You must go or it could keep you from sleeping. Jeez this is stupid.
The older man pulls out a bunch of papers and says that the younger man, who I've been in contact with, sent me this via email and did I read it thoroughly? Well, younger man did not email that to me, but I didn't want to get him in trouble so I covered for him. Yes, I received it. I only had a chance to skim it though. He discusses the risks. The chance that the iron pills they give me, to mitigate the blood loss from all the blood tests, might give me an upset stomach. The tape holding magic-jack in my butt for a month might cause irritation. The glue that holds the electrodes on my head might cause irritation. I'm onto them! They are presenting the lamest side-effects so that the guinea pig will think to them-self, That's not that bad. I can deal with an upset stomach or a small rash on my bum. But what they neglect to tell you is that you will mostly likely have nightmares and hallucinations from the sleep deprivation. That there is a decent possibility of you going genuinely insane temporarily and a small chance of you going genuinely insane permanently. Well, I'm not stupid and I'm not falling for there reverse psychology. I know what this study is all about and they can't fool me.
They emphasize to me, over and over, that I am free to leave at any time. I can, say to them, at any time, that I've had enough and I'm free to walk out of there. I will even still get paid! I earn money every day for being there and a bonus at the end. I theorize that they are emphasizing now my free-will, but once you are there and they have invested so much into you they will pressure you to stay. "Just a little longer. You're almost at the end!" They will say. And I bet you the daily payment is a pittance. Maybe $25. The bonus is where the real money is.
Having explained the basics of the study they ask if I am still interested in pursing this. I am! I lie. There is a 500 question psychiatric exam to fill in with a scan-tron sheet for my answers. They leave me with the test. I probably should have left at this point. It took me an hour or two to finish the test. But this was almost a contest of wills at this point. They were trying to scare me off and I wanted to see how far they would go. Plus I could still undergo a one-night sleep study for $250 just to make sure I will qualify - to make sure I don't have sleep apnea or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. What's that? A disorder in which you twitch as you fall asleep and sometimes it wakes you from your sleep too. Ooooooh. I have that. But I don't tell them that. I wasn't going to do their study anyway. I can still get $250 for them to tell me that I don't qualify.
I ace the psychological test. I know I did because I can see through all their questions. Sociopathy and traumatic childhood (Not sure what either has to do with a sleep study), ability to get along with people and tendency for volatility. (Important for a sleep deprived person not to attack their medical personnel). Introvert or extravert? (Extroverts would have a hard time completing this study.) Bipolar. "Has anyone every told you, you eat fast?" That indicates mania and yes I have been told I eat fast when I'm manic. I fill in the circle that says no. Lots of questions about your sexual appetite - another indicator of bi-polar. No, of course, I am perfectly normal sexually. Nothing weird here. ha ha. Do you believe that dreams can be signs or a message? I do happen to look for signs and messages in my dreams. But I'm not stupid enough to think that a hallucination in a sleep-deprived state is a sign. I answer no because I know that's what they need to hear. They ask a few questions twice, in reverse, to make sure you are reading carefully. They also have rows of true and rows of false with a few exceptions so that you are not blindly trying to get the right answers. The only part I mess up is the questions about money. I answer that, no I am not worried about money and I am not in need of money. That sort of thing. After I turned it in I slapped my forehead. I needed to indicate my need of money so that they knew they could motivate me with it when the study got hard.
I did end up passing the psychological test. I get to come in for a one hour physical exam and one hour psychological exam. I get twenty-five whole dollars!! (Barely covers the cost of going in). But what could they do that would take two whole hours?! Surely some anal probing. I just had to find out!