Heart Failure and Sleep

Sleep issues and heart failure may be related. For example, if you have heart failure, you’re more likely to experience insomnia. Similarly, sleep issues such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and insomnia can exacerbate heart failure symptoms. 

Whether your heart is healthy or not, getting a good night’s sleep is essential. Rest is beneficial to your heart function, energy levels, cognitive abilities, and overall health. You may be able to relieve some of the strain on your heart if you can address any sleep problems you are experiencing.

Sleep Issues Caused by Heart Failure

Heart failure symptoms can disrupt your sleep, for example: 

  • Chest pain or discomfort which make it difficult to fall or stay asleep
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing while lying down
  • Having to get up frequently in the middle of the night to pee. 

If you are upright (standing or sitting) most of the day, additional fluid may collect in your legs and feet. When you lay down to sleep, this fluid can then travel up into your chest, causing your lungs and airways to constrict and making it difficult to breathe. To get rid of excess fluid, your doctor may prescribe diuretics. However, these medications continue to operate while you sleep, which may cause you to wake up throughout the night to pee.

How can I Improve My Sleep?

There is a strong association between difficulty falling or staying asleep and the risk of developing heart failure. The linkage is not fully understood, but one reason could be that sleeplessness activates the body’s stress response, which over time can weaken the heart.

You can help ensure a good night’s sleep by doing the following: 

Go to sleep and wake up at the same time daily. 

Help set your “body clock” by following a consistent schedule. Our bodies naturally follow a circadian rhythm, which regulates many biological functions within our bodies, including the release of important hormones into our bloodstream.

Establish a bedtime routine. 

Following a routine, such as brushing your teeth, taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading a book, allows you to wind down in the evening and get a restful night’s sleep. To reduce stress before going to bed, practice mindfulness or do some light stretches.

Meditate or practice mindfulness. 

Meditating or practicing mindfulness may help you relax and find a sense of calm. You can do this while sitting or lying down, even do a body scan to relax and ready yourself for sleep. 

Limit sleep disrupting beverages.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Abstain from alcohol entirely.

Go to bed when you feel drowsy.

Recognize your sleepiness signals and use them as a cue to turn off the lights and go to bed, even if it doesn’t seem like the conventional time to do so.

Exercise on a regular basis. 

Daily exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. However, exercising too close to bedtime can make it difficult to sleep – try not to exercise for at least three hours before going to bed.

Get natural light each and every day

Spending time outside during the day can help you sleep better at night. A 10-minute break outside in the fresh air can make a significant difference.

Make your sleeping environment as comfortable as possible.

Your bedroom should be sleep-friendly. A few simple changes to make your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable will assist you in remaining calm and creating a positive association between your bedroom and sleep. Close the blinds or curtains. If the room is still too bright, invest in blackout curtains or an eye mask. To block out sounds, you could also use earplugs or a white noise machine.

Make sure your bed is supportive and comfortable.

Choose a mattress and pillow that are appropriate for you.

Limit your daytime naps. 

Short naps can help you regain energy and focus but limit them to 20-30 minutes and no later than mid-afternoon.

Don’t use electronics or watch TV in your bedroom. 

All electronic devices necessitate focus and attention, which raises your level of alertness. Research has also found a link between the light emitted by these screens and a disruption in circadian rhythm patterns. Turn off all electronics one hour before going to bed.

Be sure to let your cardiologist know if you are having trouble sleeping.