Beer really is more than a breakfast food

Earlier this year I wrote about spending a night in a strange bed with strange bedfellows. And recently a few patient readers brought it to my attention that I'd left folks hanging about what transpired after all the electronic devices were unhooked.

"Did you ever get your sleep-study results?" they asked.

Oops. My bad. Didn't mean to drag you into Mr. Sandman drama and then dropkick the dream talk. Two penalty bonks on my head with a goose-down pillow as penance.

In case you missed the original posting, my doctor had ordered the sleep study because I'd been complaining about nocturnal respiration. We both suspected I might have sleep apnea — that breath-stopping, sleep-depriving, heart-stressing, brain-cell killing condition that afflicts so many. So I was sent to a specialist who agreed I was a prime candidate for apnea due to my Pekinese mug on a St. Bernard body.

OK. Not really. But she did say this full-figured gal had a "tiny throat, a short neck and a little nose."

"Not much room for air in there," the specialist opined.

Before you could say Rip Van Winkle, I was in the clutches of a kindly clinician who spent 45 minutes hooking me up to various gadgets and paraphernalia. Most of the electrodes were glued to my head and face, a few were attached to my legs — just in case my restless nights were caused by restless legs. There were also straps around my chest, an oxygen-saturation clip on my finger and wires trailing everywhere.

I somehow managed to snooze that night, even tangled up in all that mess. Not a full eight hours, mind you. But enough to supply enough data to determine a conclusion. On the cusp of Thanksgiving, I'm belatedly and happily announcing something for which I am pretty darned grateful: I do NOT have sleep apnea.

The medical pros were the most shocked of all. And disappointed. The sleep specialists were hoping I might chronicle my experiences adjusting to life with an oxygen mask. And, hopefully, after I'd finished with all the whining, I could wax forth about the joys of getting enough REM sleep.

But the reality turned out to be (insert anti-climactic drum roll please) I'm just a really light sleeper.

"You're sleeping. And you're getting some good REM sleep," the bemused specialist said, shaking her head. "But you wake up a lot. And could really use some help staying asleep."

Figures I'd be wired with a hair-trigger alarm clock. I've always admired the guy in the Western who appears to be dozing alongside the campfire with all the other cowboys — until the bad guy steps on a twig while making his move. Nobody could get the drop on that dude.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," drawled Pardner, pushing his hat off his wide-awake face and displaying a cocked pistol.

But, in reality, not all cracking twigs are caused by nefarious cattle rustlers. Sometimes it's just a dang squirrel scampering across your roof. Or your heater turning on. Or your cat hopping up on the bed for a snuggle. Or any combination of these wakeful things that happen every blasted night.

Arrgh! What to do about an over-alert alarm system? The specialist suggested I might try a prescription sleep aid. But I quickly nixed that idea. So she offered more natural remedies. I wrinkled my snoot until, at some point, she mentioned hops.

"Hops? Like what's in beer?" I queried.

She replied in the affirmative. Hmm. Interesting. I'd always noticed something seemed to be happening on a cellular level on the rare occasions I'd downed a beer.

"I don't like the taste much. But, on the rare occasion I suck a cold one down, it's like my body seems somehow grateful for the stuff," I said. "What is up with that?"

She said she had no idea, and quickly added hops was available in pill form at my local health food store.

Yeah. Yeah. What's the fun in that? Later that day, as I perused the liquid options in my local grocery store, I struggled to make the correct decision. After all, I'd be imbibing for medicinal purposes. But, honestly, I'm really not much of a drinker and don't know a pilsner from a stout. Eventually I spied a six-pack with the big, bright sticker that read "LOADED WITH HOPS!" Sold!

That night I popped open a bottle of Sleep Potion No. 9 and sipped slowly. I managed to down about half the beer and barely made it into my jammies and bed before the hops face-planted me on my pillow — like a dead woman — for 12 solid hours. I couldn't believe it, so I tried it again a few nights later and experienced similar results. Now my inner Snoozepuss won't stop singing "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall ..."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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