Time-lapse Sleep

Watching time-lapse videos of people sleeping reminds me of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I say that it involves erasing memories while the subject sleeps. As with any Charlie Kaufman film, there’s some love-triangley, melancholy disquiet, and it edges into the surreal and symbolic (another common quality of his work) very much like a dream.

If you search around YouTube for “time lapse sleep” you will find numerous personal videos. Many of them aren’t terribly useful, because they don’t include a timestamp or a description of the actual time elapsed in the video. This is important to actual study, because it gives clues as to the person’s normal sleep cycle. Research has shown an average cycle of 90 minutes, though in my own study, I found my cycle only lasted 70 minutes.

I would shift a little bit in the beginning, then about 45 minutes in, my breathing would become heavy. At about an hour and ten minutes after falling asleep, I would wake up and turn over, then repeat the same process. I was only able to capture 2 cycles before I actually woke up and stopped recording. It turned out to be very awkward sleeping with my grow light on.

Before I started the video, I wasn’t sure what I would see. I love scary movies and part of me expected I would find something creepy standing over me. It was nothing like that. I was also a little afraid since my doctor suspected I have sleep apnea. I thought I might see myself stop breathing, but obviously if I was able to watch the video it meant I’d been able to start breathing again, so that wasn’t a particular concern. Instead, when I played the video back, I saw a pretty mundane little nap.

I’m still looking for good software to use my webcam for still capture. For the first video, I used Flix (demo version with the watermark). It’s $10 to register and have the watermark removed, but I didn’t trust the program. It came with a bunch of adware and was pretty unstable. I uninstalled and rolled back my computer the next day. I’m not opposed to spending money on a good program, but my funds are limited at the moment, so cheap is better. I’ve heard of Gawker, but it’s a Mac program. All I, or you, need for time-lapse sleep videos is something that you can set to take photos with your webcam at intervals of your choosing. I think I set mine to take a picture every 15 seconds.

Give it a try, if you’re curious. The only slightly disturbing thing about it is that you get to see yourself totally vulnerable and completely natural. You’re not even self-aware enough to present your “good side” when you’re sleeping, or to suppress embarrassing gestures/expressions.

Thursday Rambling: Sleep Apnea

Let’s try my Thursday, free-subject plan. I’ve decided to designate Thursdays for extras, which could include videos I’ve found (or made), comics relating to sleep/dreams, quizzes and dream interpretations I found entertaining, or sometimes just my own ramblings.

Today, I’m going to ramble a bit about things happening in my life regarding sleep. I haven’t had much to report as far as dreams this week, but I am trying some new things. My lung specialist has no idea what’s wrong with this one icky lung, and he admits that the weight issue has nothing to do with it, but maintains that a big girl like me must have sleep apnea. Since obesity is now considered a disease, doctors must treat it regardless of whatever ailment brought you there in the first place. He’s flying blind on my lung issue, but doing everything he can to stay involved in my weight loss. Y’know, I didn’t have to spend $600+ to know I need to lose weight, and so far that’s all he’s been able to tell me (actually, my poor mother has been footing the bill, so feel sorry for her).

So sleep apnea is a huge concern for overweight/obese people. I was given an overnight pulse oximetry test the weekend after my first visit with the specialist. They ran some tests before I saw him. My oxygen levels were just as high as they could be, 99 and 100. My lung output was “spot on” for someone my age. I have an excellent walking pace and my x-ray was clean. Having to return 3 weeks later to report the medicine did nothing to help my very productive cough, the doctor went over my sleep test results. They weren’t low, but they did fluctuate quite a bit, so he’s certain something must be happening there. He wants me to go in for an overnight sleep clinic test to get more solid readings, but says that sleep apnea can be resolved two ways: lose weight or get surgery. The actual treatment for someone simply coping with sleep apnea is to use a CPAP machine overnight. Now, personally, I think if my levels aren’t “low” yet and I’m already on an exercise/diet plan to lose the weight, the cost outweighs the benefit to have the additional tests and treatment.

Actually, the doctor seems to have so little knowledge of the overweight body, he borders on an uncredentialed fat-shamer. He’s constantly making statements like “So if you have to snack on something, go for the carrot sticks and not the Ben & Jerry’s.” My diet is not awful. The worst thing on my grocery list is the pop-tarts. My boyfriend and I eat veggie wraps and homemade sweet potato & zucchini soup. We bake our vegetable side dishes and stay away from fatty meats. We used to eat sandwiches quite a bit, but the bread alone takes up a huge portion of the daily allowance. The fact is, I’d been very inactive for a long time. The doctor suggested I start walking, so I’ve gotten a routine started. He said “Even if it’s 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, that’s a good start.” When I returned and he asked how much I’m walking, I told him I get at least 4 hours a week. He said “Is that 30 minutes here and there?” I told him at least an hour when I do it, and on Saturdays I go for 2 hours. “Two hours?! That’s several miles!” he sounded shocked. My mother and I looked at each other and back at him and nodded.

Despite all this, he still wants me to get more medical tests and treatments for the sleep apnea possibility, meanwhile he continues to throw ineffective medicines at the mystery ailment. It’s gotten me curious about my sleep patterns. This week I downloaded a program that would use my laptop’s webcam to make a time-lapse video out of pictures taken overnight. I’ll be going over the time-lapse study next Wednesday. So far it has been interesting, but I was a little nervous at first. I was nervous I would see something frightening in the video like you see in scary movies; something standing over the bed while I’m asleep. It was mostly just boring, so I sped up the framerate of the video. I got to watch my eyes dart around during REM, which was really cool. I look forward to more studies and sharing my results here.

I guess that’s all my rambling for the day. I will not be covering sleep apnea in depth until August. Next week, I’ll be talking about REM and the time-lapse study.