Alright I have to admit, It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. I wasn’t strapped to an operating table by Dr. Frankenstein, instead, I decided it would be a great idea to earn a “quick buck” by participating in a ten day Sleep Study for a University in Adelaide.
I was waiting for my deliciously creamy hot chocolate from the vending machine when I spotted the poster amongst the sea of other advertisements in the hostel. Hmmmm Sleep Study… intriguing. I’d seen these type of studies back home and thought taking part in a medical study would be an interesting and memorable experience; not only that but in this one they’re essentially paying people to SLEEP!
WOOO!! GETTING PAID TO DO WHAT I DO BEST!
I was feeling a little restless in Sydney, so I made the decision to fly to Adelaide for the SECOND time to participate. After-all, I needed the cash and I was genuinely interested to find out what it was all about, besides, I really like Adelaide!
Tell me a little more about the study.
We all know that Type 2 Diabetes is becoming an ever increasing problem around the world. The main causes are usually poor diet and lack of exercise, however, recent evidence now shows that lack of sleep is also a contributing factor. This particular study was a simple sleep study that will examine the effect of poor sleep on a major aspect of diabetes – the ability to process Glucose.
The study was pretty low risk, it didn’t involve taking any suspicious medication so I didn’t need to worry about growing any extra toes!
So what was it like inside the “Lab”?
Whilst “inside” we had a few rules to abide by.
- We’d only be allowed internet access for 20 minutes per day!
- We were not allowed outside of the Lab for 10 days.
- We were only allowed to eat the food and portions provided to us
- We could only drink water. No tea! 😦
- Talking to the other participants was to be kept to a minimum, we’d only speak to each other during test sessions and meal times.
What actually went down inside the lab?
Unfortunately, to my disappointment, the SLEEP STUDY wasn’t all about napping and sleeping.
Our particular group of participants were randomly given 9 hours sleep per night. Other previous groups had anywhere between 5 – 8 hours per night, so we were the lucky ones! Overall I’d spend 240 hours in this facility, 90 hours of which were spent sleeping!
I watched an unhealthy amount of Films and TV during my time there. I must have watched at least 20 films AND four seasons of How I Met Your Mother … What? There was nothing else to do.
During the day we’d complete around three Test Sessions. To start off we’d complete an monotonous 10 minute reaction test followed by a balance test, and then finish of with a 10 minute walk on a treadmill which was honestly the most BORING thing I’ve ever done.
Oh the blood sampling. The least enjoyable thing about my experience in the Sleep Study.
We were to spend THREE HOURS sitting down having our blood sucked out of us. Luckily we had a film to watch to distract us from the agonising pain of having our arm in one place for three hours.
After an hour and a half of having my blood taken, I started to become very aware of this gigantic needle sticking out of my arm. The more I thought about it the worse I felt. I was beginning to have flashbacks to a time In High School when I passed out in front of my class mates after accidentally smashing my knee against a fire extinguisher. Was this about to happen again? I became very hot, my hands felt clammy, my vision began to blur and my hearing started to fade.
Yep, I was passing out.
Oh well, I tried to keep calm and accepted my fate. Luckily a team member spotted I was in trouble and rushed to my aid, reclined my chair and raised my feet.
Most days we were fed FIVE times per day. FIVE TIMES, to me that’s madness.
Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner and Supper.
Being a traveller, this was a pure luxury. Every meal was provided by a company called Lite n Easy, which are specifically calorie controlled meals. Apart from being easy meals, they were actually pretty tasty.
I did however find myself constantly thinking about the next meal. I’m sure they feed us just enough to last us until our next meal. Now I know how domesticated pets feel.
How did I feel about my experience?
I suppose the most daunting thing was the prospect of being cooped up all day in an alien environment, with people I didn’t know, no natural daylight and nowhere to go but the four corners of my own mind. A possible recipe for disaster. But that’s looking at the situation in a negative way.
I saw this as an opportunity to unwind, to take myself away from the constant stimulation of the outside world. It was a chance for me to push the reset button.
I guess you could argue that it’s not to dissimilar to being in prison. Lack of freedom combined with a strict monotonous routine, however, I didn’t see it this way. I didn’t have the worries or the stresses of cooking my next meal or deciding “What’s Next” on my agenda. I rarely had to think about my day, instead, I used that energy to clear my mind and explore my thoughts and emotions. Something I rarely have time for in this busy world. I finally had the time to think about the direction my life has gone and where it’s going. I thought a lot about the sacrifices I had to make to come travelling, things like my relationship, my job, my family and friends. I thought about my choices after travelling, am I going to study, get an apprenticeship or keep travelling? I got to face all these thoughts and feelings I’ve been bottling up over the past few months, it was a relief to finally confront them.
Aside from the chance to use this time as a psychological retreat, overall it was honestly a enjoyable experience, something I will never forget. The other five participants were really friendly. As one of them said, our group had a real nice harmony. We were all different ages from different backgrounds. We’d talk about our lives, the world, we’d even share stories and life experiences. By the end of it I’d made five new friends for life. I have to mention that the staff were exceptional too, they were extremely friendly and they really contributed to making us feel comfortable whilst in a strange environment.
Would I recommend doing this?
If you’re a backpacker, looking for a new experience and a way to make some money, absolutely. It sure beat working in a warehouse or a cafe!
I feel responsible to mention that not all medical studies are the same. Before committing to one, ensure you understand the study and you know what to expect.
Thanks for reading my Ramble.