Are Sleep Problems Related To Heart Failure? (5 Important Signs)

Sleep is possibly one of the most important functions of our lives.

Every single process that goes on in our bodies needs sleep, otherwise it can start to affect the way we physically and mentally function.

Are Sleep Problems Related To Heart Failure

Sleep helps our bodies to fight diseases and develop immunity whilst simultaneously reducing the risk of disease. 

The relationship between heart failure and sleep can go both ways, if you’re having issues with your heart then you’re more likely to be having problems with your sleep and if you’re having issues sleeping then symptoms of heart failure will worsen.

It can be worrying to feel like your health is declining if you’re having trouble sleeping, so in this article we will be discussing the relationship between sleep problems and heart failure and 5 important sleeping problems to look out for that can contribute to heart failure.


Orthopnea is a feeling of breathlessness whilst you’re lying down and sitting or standing up will usually relieve the feeling of breathlessness.

Many people who have heart failure will experience the symptoms of orthopnea or even paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, which is a shortness of breath that will usually awaken those with it after one or two hours of sleep.

It’s a two way street, as orthopnea can also be a symptom of congestive heart failure as it is a failure of both ventricles with increased pressure from fluid through the pulmonary circulation.

2. Insomnia

Everyone has probably experienced insomnia at least once in their life, so you might be surprised to see this on the list.

Insomnia often goes hand in hand with a lot of other chronic conditions, people with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. 

With insomnia you will essentially become sleep deprived which can lead to a numerous amount of things that start to go wrong within your body, your heart being one of them.

It’s not entirely known why insomnia can cause heart failure, but many researchers believe that it is due to the stress response activated by insomnia starting to take a toll on how the heart functions. 

Insomnia is known to increase the risks of heart failure in people with these conditions:

  • Obesity: Lack of sleep is often associated with a gain in weight due to the person eating during hours they should be asleep. 
  • High blood pressure: Whilst you’re asleep, your body will naturally drop its blood pressure. So if you’re unable to sleep, your blood pressure will stay higher for longer. 
  • Type 2 diabetes: Diabetes can ultimately damage blood vessels and some research has found that sufficient sleep can help manage blood sugar control. 

3. Sleep Apnea 

It’s been estimated that patients with sleep apnea are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart arrhythmias and it increases the risk of heart failure by 140%. 

The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea, this is where the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much and partially or completely block the airways, making it difficult to breathe during sleep.

The less common type is called central sleep apnea, this is where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. 

Both of these conditions affect a person’s quality of sleep and can lead into the next day giving them fatigue.

They also can result in a periodic drop of blood oxygen levels, which causes adrenaline to kick in and this causes the person to awaken, this can be detrimental to heart failure control.

4. Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

This is a rare disorder where the person will experience repetitive twitching, jerking or cramping in their lower limbs during sleep.

These movements affect the person’s sleep, even if they don’t wake up which can cause fatigue during the next day.

A person may not even know they have PLMD, these involuntary movements happen in very short bursts of time, so they may just wake up feeling tired or not refreshed leading them to believe it’s just insomnia.

The lack of sleep a person gets from PLMD can be a serious worry as it can be a precursor for heart failure through the many reasons we’ve mentioned above. 

5. Narcolepsy 

Narcolepsy is a long term brain condition that causes a person to fall asleep at inappropriate times, the brain is unable to regulate normal sleeping and waking patterns which can result in excessive sleepiness.

Thankfully this condition is quite rare, but studies have shown that the risks of heart failure, strokes and heart attacks were significantly higher in people with this condition. 

The biggest reason why narcolepsy can cause heart failure is because the protein hypocretin, which regulates our blood pressure lowering during sleep, is often deficient in people with narcolepsy. 

Final Thoughts

A good night’s sleep and good sleeping patterns are absolutely essential for cardiovascular health, without it there can be a lot of warning signs that heart failure may be about to occur.

But they both go hand in hand, sleep problems can cause heart failure but poor cardiovascular health can cause sleeping problems too and this can severely affect your quality of life. 

More research needs to be done about why sleeping problems are related to heart problems, but the most common answer is that sleeping usually lets our bodies reset and helps our bodies gain immunity and fight diseases and a lack of sleep can also stop our bodies doing important things like naturally dropping our blood pressure and improving our cardiovascular health. 

If you have one of these conditions we’ve listed, or think you may have one or are just having sleeping problems in general, not to worry, there’s a range of treatments available and things you can do yourself to try and ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

If you’re unsure, contact your doctor or health professional who will be able to offer you more help regarding your sleeping problems. We hope this article has helped!

Joshua Damie
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