Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Russian Technician

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I finally figured it out. Our cat has a gift like that Russian sleep clinic technician and now everything makes sense. I now understand her crazy obsession of pummeling us with kneading paws in the early morning darkness when we least desire her affectionate attention. Pequenita is the Russian sleep tech from Cyndie’s tales of being tested in a sleep lab years ago.

First, she was told to stay awake for ten minutes while wearing the cap of countless wired sensors. Cyndie describes looking out a window and around the room to pass the time. Looking at a magazine. How hard is it to stay awake for ten minutes? Then the grumpy countenanced Russian technician’s voice came over the speaker and told her to wake up.

“I’m not asleep.” she claims to have said.

But, she was. He saw her fall asleep in about 30 seconds. He made her try again. Multiple times over the 24-hour period of testing, they played that little game. She says she failed every time. What startled her was that she felt like she succeeded every time. She didn’t think she was falling asleep.

This discrepancy of perception worked both ways with her sleep cycle. The objective is to have the patient stay awake when it is time to be awake, and stay asleep when it is time to sleep.

In the morning, Cyndie describes her battle with the Russian technician’s voice over the intercom.

“You need to get up now because you are awake.” His words grabbed her attention.

“I’m not awake. I’m still sleeping.”

“No, you’re not. I can see your brain waves.”

This guy knows what sleeping brain waves and awake brain waves look like. It’s what he does. He could clearly see when her brain woke up.

I don’t think Pequenita is perceiving our brain waves, but I think she detects that same moment when our brains wake up, yet we think we are still sleeping. That is why her treading paws on our heads is so annoying. We are trying to remain asleep. She knows that we are not still sleeping.

I think it is our breathing that she detects. Even though we have no intention of waking up yet, there are moments in the sleep cycle when we transition out of deep sleep to what I would describe as semi-conscious. For me, it is often occurring when one of my arms has fallen incredibly numb and I need to switch positions. There is also the very obvious situation of a full bladder, which I am extremely grateful to be alerted to so I can remedy while maintaining dry sheets. Sometimes, it is a result of a vivid dream experience.

My first guess is that Pequenita hears the change in our breathing as our brains wake up. I expect our body movements are another easy clue.

When she steps on our heads in the early morning hours before we want to wake up, I now think of her as our own little ornery Russian sleep technician letting us know our brains are no longer asleep.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

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