In the United States, 6.5 million adults suffer from heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You’ll feel tired and fatigued during the day because you might suffer from sleep problems as a result of the condition or corresponding problems, such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, or orthopnea.
Do you wake up feeling tired and then feel sleepy during the day? Does the drowsiness impact your daily life? These might be symptoms of heart failure or some other cardiac problem. Consider them wake-up calls that you should take seriously and explore the cause.
5. Sleep Apnea
Up to 70 percent of heart failure patients appear to suffer from sleep apnea. There are two forms of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles located at the back of your throat collapse while you sleep. They can close only partially or completely.
- Common central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs in those suffering from severe heart failure and seems more common in men than women. CSA occurs when the brain appears to falter and not send the correct signals for breathing.
Both conditions cause the sufferer to experience a sudden drop in blood oxygen levels, which spurs the body to increase its adrenaline levels and wake you up suddenly. Since you wake up several times a night, you fail to gain a restful slumber and end up tired during the day. The exhaustion only exacerbates heart failure further.
If you suffer from heart failure, then you might start to feel breathless when you lay down. This is a form of paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea. The shortness of breath causes you to wake up suddenly after only about one or two hours of sleep. It is believed that the condition is a result of the ventricular pressure in the heart that causes a volume overload.
With orthopnea, you will feel better when you sit up or stand up. In fact, as heart failure progresses, many sufferers can only get a good night’s sleep by sleeping in an upright position, which is why they turn to recliners or hospital beds to gain relief.
3. Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
PLMD causes an increase in nerve activity in your arms and legs. They will start to twitch involuntarily and move in little jerky motions while you sleep. The movements disturb your sleep and cause you to wake up. They also bother your partner who might be trying to sleep next to you, but the constant and uncontrollable movements are overly extreme and disturbing.
Upon awakening, many PLMD sufferers might not even realize that they were twitching or know that the movements are the cause of them waking up throughout the night. This is especially true if they do not sleep with a partner.
PLMD might not completely wake you up but only disrupt your sleep, so you do not sleep deeply. You will fail to wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. In fact, you will end up being more exhausted then you did when you first went to bed. As the PLMD episodes progress, your body might start to fail even more from sheer exhaustion.
If you suffer from heart failure and other chronic conditions, then it is not unusual to also experience insomnia. You will feel anxious and concerned over your health condition, so you might not be able to fall asleep. Also, you might have bouts of fear over what the future holds or start to get nervous over possible hospitalizations.
Without a doubt, coping with heart failure and the reality that the chronic condition will only worsen with time and inevitably lead to hospice care is enough to make most sufferers undergo bouts of insomnia as they stress and worry late at night. Talking with your physician or a mental health worker might help you gain rest.
1. Exploring Better Sleep Positions
If you suffer from heart failure and you cannot sleep at night, then try to improve your sleep positions, and also get checked for other health conditions that might hinder your ability to gain rest.
- If you get screened for sleep apnea, then you might be prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which can help tremendously so you can sleep better and also get more oxygen, which will help your heart condition.
- Sleeping on your side is another option that is beneficial if you cannot use a CPAP machine. Lateral sleeping on the left or right side significantly decreases sleep apnea. However, please be aware that if you have an implanted defibrillator then you will want to sleep on the opposite side so you are more comfortable.
- Also, sleeping on the left side puts less stress on the IVC vein, which makes it more comfortable if you are suffering from heart failure.
- Elevating your head with pillows or a hospital bed will also reduce lung congestion caused by advanced heart failure so you can breathe better.
- Elevating your feet reduces edema in the legs and ankles. Compression stockings can also help push the blood back from the extremities to the heart while you sleep. which takes a load off your heart which is already being overworked because of your condition.