Check Out These Spots in Iceland on Your Next Vacation

There’s been a lot of buzz about Iceland lately (no surprise there)! Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, this Nordic island has a population of roughly 357,050. Rich with Viking history, cultural experiences, hot springs, lava fields, and other stunning landscape, Iceland is a perfect spot for your next vacation. So what sights should you see while exploring the land of fire and ice?

The Blue Lagoon – Known as Iceland’s most famous spa, the blue lagoon is an experience like no other. The milky-blue pools are at 102 degrees fahrenheit year round so you’ll never be cold! One of the reasons this destination is so popular is because of its proximity to the international airport and capital, Reykjavik. Many don’t know that the lagoon is not natural; it was actually created in 1976 as a waste-water pool for a geothermal power plant that drills for steam and hot water. Don’t worry! The water is completely non-toxic and it’s renewed every 48 hours.

Þingvellir National Park – The spectacular landscape and pronounced tectonic plates of this national park naturally makes it a natural wonder. Located by the Öxará river, the nation’s first parliament met here from 930 until 1798; it’s now protected as a national shrine and will always be the property of the Icelandic nation. You can hike, walk, or horseback ride your way through the tectonic plates and rugged (but awesome) landscape. Along the way you’ll see an array of wildlife including up to 50 species of wild birds.

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What is Circadian Rhythm?

Alex Lucio What is Circadian Rhythm_

Did you know that there is a reason we feel awake and tired at the same time almost every day? These feelings are guided by our natural circadian rhythm. Let’s take a closer look at what this means and how it impacts our sleep.


Circadian Rhythm Defined

On the most basic level, circadian rhythm is our internal clock that runs 24/7 and cycles between periods of sleepiness and awakeness. The cycle happens over regular intervals and is also known as our natural “sleep/wake cycle.” Periods of feeling tired or awake can depend on the individual; adults usually have the lowest energy levels between 2 and 4 a.m. as well as 1 and 3 p.m.

A part of your brain called the hypothalamus primarily controls this rhythm, but other factors influence our natural sleep cycles. Sunlight and darkness are both signals for the hypothalamus to either feel awake or tired. When this signal occurs at nighttime our bodies release melatonin, making us feel tired. According to the national sleep foundation, “That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime (and why it’s so hard for shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night).”


Can You Change it?

Circadian rhythm is impacted by various factors, and we’ve all changed our sleep cycles without realizing it. When we travel to other time zones our bodies naturally adjust to our new location, but this isn’t the only way we change our sleep schedule.

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The Importance of Cleaning Your CPAP

A CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure device is commonly used to treat sleep apnea. Even though CPAPs come sterilized, it’s crucial to regularly clean it out in order to keep you healthy and your machine running smoothly. During CPAP use throughout the night, bedroom air filters through the machine to the mask and nose. Exhaled air then moved back into the machine through the mask and tube. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA) all of the exhaled air is moisture from the body: “Microorganisms thrive on moisture and particulate matter.” Keeping your CPAP clean keeps microorganisms at bay.


Risks of a Dirty CPAP

If you neglect to clean your CPAP on a regular basis your machine and attached equipment will start to grow bacteria. This buildup of bacteria could lead to a smelly device and cause you to use it less. Other consequences of not cleaning your CPAP include mold exposure, allergy symptoms, increase risk of infection, and equipment breakdown. Harmful bacteria can pass directly to your lungs, causing a cough, bronchitis, or pneumonitis. Overall, your quality of health and sleep could decrease if your CPAP is dirty.


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What Determines Sleep Quality?

Alex Lucio What Determines Sleep Quality_

There are many factors that help figure out of we’re getting a good night of rest. Going to bed on time and getting the recommended amount of sleep helps you both physically and mentally. A proper amount of sleep lowers blood pressure and boosts energy levels. But what exactly helps us sleep well? The answer is good quality sleep; here’s how to determine your quality of sleep.


Time in Bed: Great sleep quality means being asleep for 85 percent of the time you’re actually in bed. Hopping into bed doesn’t mean you’re getting the necessary rest that comes from sleep. Try not to bring electronics like cell phones or laptops to bed with you; cut out television time as well. All of this makes it harder for you to fall asleep and could stress you out (like watching something scary or action packed).


Quickly Falling Asleep: How quickly you fall asleep is a major factor in quality sleep. If you’re able to drift off right when you get into bed, you’ll have a better rest than someone who takes a long time to fall asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Experts say that the ability to fall asleep in 30 minutes or less is a good indication that your sleep quality is high.” Don’t worry if you can’t sleep right away, creating a relaxing sleep environment and pre-bed routine will help you!


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Is There a Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Weight?

Alex Lucio Sleep Apnea and Weight

There are many correlations between sleep apnea (specifically, OSA) and health. According to the National Sleep Foundation OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) affects 3% to 7% of the United States population. Being overweight along with other factors such as nasal congestion and small airways are all common causes of this sleep disorder. But, did you know that half of sleep apnea patients are overweight? Here’s what we can learn from the connection between sleep apnea and weight.


Weight Gain Leading to Sleep Apnea:

Weight gain leads to a buildup of fat in the neck area and it can put pressure on the airways, causing sleep apnea to occur. BMI and neck circumference are the two main markers that point to an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. A BMI of 25-29.9 and above is considered obese; as well as a neck circumferences of 17 inches in men and 15 inches in women. Luckily, there’s one main way to decrease BMI and neck circumference, exercise. Weight loss can help to improve OSA all together.  


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New Screening Tool for Epileptic Sleep Apnea Patients

Having to deal with sleep apnea is already difficult, but if you combine it with another disorder, such as epilepsy, it can be much more dangerous because the seizures can be triggered by a lack of oxygen that happens when someone’s sleep is obstructed. To compound the problem, the Epilepsy Foundation has estimated that approximately 40% of people diagnosed with epilepsy have a higher disposition towards obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) than other people.

According to a study that was published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice, epileptic patients have not been typically evaluated in previous years even though they run a higher risk of developing OSA. Fortunately, there is a new electronic screening tool that is being developed for neurologists so that they can help diagnose apnea in epileptic patients. The reason this is revolutionary is that it’s the first time a patient’s electronic health record will be a contributing factor in helping neurologists make this assessment. This early detection is vital because it means precautions can be taken to help those people who are suffering from both of these conditions simultaneously. Some of the benefits will include better seizure control, a decrease in the need for antiepileptic medications and a reduction of the onset of sudden, unforeseen death.

The researchers cultivated their findings based on data that examined 12 risk factors, and all of these considerations were attainable from the patient’s electronic health record. An alert was set to go off based on factors, and some of the risk factors that they looked at were: a person’s body mass index (greater than 30 was a flag); snoring, choking or gasping for air while asleep; repeatedly waking up during the night, and having morning headaches. Other morning data included whether the patients woke up with a dry mouth, sore throat or a tightening of the chest. In addition to all these factors, they also looked at the frequency of nighttime urination, whether the person’s neck circumference was larger than 17 inches, and whether the patient exhibited a reduction in memory and concentration, to name just a few. If the alerts showed that a patient showed at least two potential risk factors, they were referred to a clinic to have a sleep study. The idea behind this research was to hopefully diagnose epileptic patients who otherwise would have gone unnoticed as potential candidates for sleep apnea therapy.

The findings were very dramatic. For patients without an electronic alert, only 7% were referred for sleep studies and 56% of them were diagnosed with sleep apnea. Out of the 405 cases with an alert attached to their record, 33% were referred for sleep studies, and 87% of those who completed the study were diagnosed with sleep apnea.

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Future Sleep Apnea Treatments

Roughly 20 million Americans suffer from one of three types of sleep apnea. The most common form is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and it is characterized by a closing of the airways during sleep. Contributing factors to OSA are smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and sleeping on one’s back. Fortunately, there is lots of buzz lately about advancements in technology regarding this disorder.

The typical person gets diagnosed with sleep apnea after hearing from loved ones or even noticing themselves that they are showing the following symptoms: being awakened by loud snoring or gasping for air during the night, morning headaches, dry mouth, irritability, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Your doctor should immediately be consulted if you experience any of these symptoms, just to rule out the possibility of sleep apnea.

The next step towards getting diagnosed is to take part in a sleep study. During an overnight sleep study, electrodes are attached to a person’s face and body and the person is monitored by a technician all night long. The resulting diagnosis ranges from a  low to high severity, which translates to a numerical pressure setting on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This is a machine that the person takes home and uses thereafter every night. The CPAP is not designed to cure OSA, it’s merely a way to prevent further harm caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain whenever breathing stops. While it may seem awkward to use and hard to adapt, it is very important to not let OSA go untreated because it can lead to other health risks such as a stroke or heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or even a heart attack. It has also been linked to an increase in diabetes, depression, and frequent headaches.

Until recently, people with OSA have had to get by with current CPAP technology. This includes the painstaking time and effort needed daily to clean out all hoses and the bulky humidifier, as well as purchasing copious amounts of distilled water for the device. Because of this, many people abandon their CPAP machines out of frustration. Future technology will make the humidifiers and tubing easier to disassemble and clean and make the entire unit more compact, which will appeal to travelers. In addition, the software that is built-in to the unit will be getting smarter so people will be able to download and analyze their own data. Another feature that is being discussed is the advent of infrared or UV-light technology to purify the air as the person inhales all night long. There is also talk of custom-molded CPAP masks designed to perfectly fit a person’s face. Doctors are optimistic this will go a long way towards user compliance when it comes to actually using these machines.

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