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Clinical Trial: Sleep Study

Updated on July 3, 2015
Silva Hayes profile image

Silva has a background as a technical writer and in addition to how-to articles she writes about cooking, travel, and personal experiences.

My experience with a sleep study for insomnia. If you need extra money, consider a clinical trial such as this one.

Sleep study
Sleep study

In need of extra cash, and having my usual problems with sleeping, I decided to volunteer for a sleep study, a clinical trial for insomnia. I looked on Craigslist under Part-Time Jobs and found a clinical research study for insomnia sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company.

It sounded legitimate and paid well, and I haven’t slept more than 4 hours at a stretch in many years, so I contacted them about becoming a subject.

They called and we scheduled an appointment, during which I was interviewed about my sleep patterns, my diet, and asked to speculate as to what had caused my sleep patterns to become disrupted. They were looking to rule out people who suffer from sleep apnea; instead they needed subjects who suffered from insomnia, which is my middle name.

They took my blood pressure and required a urine sample and a blood sample. Oh how I detest giving a blood sample. I’ve never been okay with it, but now that I’m old it is becoming more difficult to find a good vein. Here’s a tip that someone in a doctor’s office gave me. He said, Always ask for a butterfly needle . So I did and that works better with less pain than what they usually use.

I was given a Palm Pilot and instructions on how to enter information both morning and evening. That was quite simple and took no time at all. It only asks a few questions about your caffeine and alcohol intake and the times and durations of sleeping and waking during the night. I began entering data into the Palm Pilot right away although I did not have any medication yet.

I was given an appointment for my first overnight stay and told not to have any caffeine or alcohol within 24 hours of the appointment and to shower and shampoo my hair before arrival and not use any products such as hairspray or lotion.

I arrived at the sleep center around 8:30 p.m. and was taken to my room and given an overview of what would occur. The room was simply a room that would ordinarily be an office (no closet). It would compare to a mid-range motel room. The bed was a double size with standard motel-type linens and the bathroom was across the hall and shared with others who were in the study. I changed into pajamas and unpacked my toiletries. There was no TV so I chose a paperback about vampires and settled on the bed to read.

At 9:00 the procedure began. First I was asked some questions about alcohol intake. I had not had any; however, my answers were verified with another urine sample and a breathalyzer test where you blow into a straw until there is a beep. After the attendant went away and checked those tests, she came back and the real fun began.

Many electrodes were installed all over my body. In my hair, she made a dozen or more dots with a red pen and then installed the electrodes with wax. More went on my forehead, over and under my eyes, and on my chin. Then 3 electrodes were attached to each leg, with the wiring running from my neck down inside my pajamas. Lastly, two belts went above the waist and below, a nasal cannula inserted in my nose, and a thing on my fingertip that glowed red and measured how efficiently my body processed oxygen. By now I had a mass of wiring that hung from my head and I felt that I had to move cautiously or I would unplug something.

The attendant dispensed two pills which were either the subject of the study or placeboes.

Now I had to go to the bathroom again! Just kidding .

(However, I knew I would probably have to get up once during the night since I drank a lot of water in order to give the sample, and I was dreading that.)

So I lay down and the lights are turned out. The attendant speaks from outside the room, watching me with cameras installed in the ceiling of my room. Look to the left and then the right ten times. Now look up and then look down ten times. Now with your eyes closed, look to the right and then to the left ten times. Now push your belly out and then suck it in ten times. Now point your toes , and so forth.

Finally, I am allowed to try to sleep. I turn on my left side and the electrode behind my ear bites into my skin. I wriggle. The wiring pulls and protests, threatening to unplug. I lie on my left side for what seems like hours and then try to shift to the right side, lugging all the wiring with me.

At 2 a.m. I can no longer ignore the urge and I call out the attendant’s name. She comes in and unplugs me and I totter off to the bathroom trailing wires and try to pull down my pants without dislodging the electrodes attached to my legs. Mission accomplished, I crawl back into bed and try to relax and go to sleep!

At 7 a.m. the lights go on; all the electrodes are dismantled and the various belts removed. I answer another set of questions and take a timed test, translating numbers into their digital equivalents. The attendant says that I am free to go and that the coordinator will call me later in the day to tell me whether or not I have been accepted into the study, and if so, set up the next appointment. Huh? Oh no! I thought I was already in the sleep study. Oh well, okay.

After a trip to the bathroom, brushing my teeth and trying to make my hair presentable (remember it’s full of wax and red markers) I left about 7:45 a.m.

At 7 p.m. after waiting all day to hear, I get the call and I am told that I am not accepted into the study because I fell asleep after only 11 minutes, although I did wake back up all during the night, and although I am diagnosed as having insomnia, the study is looking for people who take hours to fall asleep!

I try to argue but it is to no avail. I know that I did not fall asleep after 11 minutes; I tossed and turned and tried to get comfortable for hours and suffered with the need to get up and go to the bathroom for hours before I finally called for help but it was no use. I am not accepted for the study and I can come by and pick up my check next Monday.

So I have been paid for one office visit (not ten) and will be paid for one overnight (not six) so I am quite disappointed. However, it was a new experience and I will not give up; I will continue trying to find bits here and there to supplement the income and pay the property taxes.

I would try another sleep study if it were offered. Thanks for reading!! and I hope you are able to sleep.

February 22, 2013: adding a note.

I have noticed something that seems to help me sleep and I'm passing it on for what it's worth.

We already know about melatonin, how not to eat or drink right before bedtime, and how a gentle routine before bedtime might promote sleep. Making sure you have the right pillow is said to be important for a good night's sleep. I've even heard that if you place a bar of soap under the sheet at the foot of the bed, it will help you sleep.

About 3 weeks ago, I felt a little heartburn-type discomfort after I went to bed. I got up and chewed two Tums and went back to bed. I went directly to sleep and slept all night through. I was so surprised when my alarm went off and I realized that I slept all night! I didn't connect it to the Tums, though.

A few days later, after eating out, enchiladas, rice and beans, chips and salsa, guacamole, margaritas, etc., I again felt a little out of sorts after I went to bed and I got up and took two Tums. Again, I slept like a baby all night long. I am beginning to associate Tums with a good night's sleep. You might consider trying them and see what they do for you. The kind I have on hand are Tums Regular Strength Assorted Fruit.


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    • profile image

      TimHonzu 4 years ago

      Hi, does anybody have any suggestions about the most simple method to get their infant to sleep through?

      I have read quite a few pages with ideas but I am still finding it very hard.

      Best wishes

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hmmm interesting study there.

      I once had a sleep problem but it was more to do with stress than anything else.

      I wonder how a person actually gets insomnia. What causes it? Do you know what actually causes insomnia or is it unknown?

      Interesting read thanks.

      Good luck finding some ways to pay those taxes!


    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Hi, Mr. Packer! Well, I still have a little trouble falling asleep, but I have done a couple of things that help. I put one of those foam egg crate covers on my bed, and I have new sheets that are a high thread count 100% cotton, smooth and comforting. I am sleeping about five or six hours a night so that's good. Thank you for coming by.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Very informative inside look Silva. Looks as if you got short-changed, so to speak, on the sleep study. Do you mind if I ask what your doing now to help yourself fall asleep?

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Fascinating! I enjoyed reading about your experience. Quite interesting. Thanks.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 7 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I know, it's laughable, right? They must have had an equipment malfunction. Who could sleep with all that?

    • profile image

      Makingsense 7 years ago

      Geez, it's amazing that you managed to fall asleep in there. Good luck in finding something else.