4 Sleep Problems That Can Affect Heart Disease Patients


Most healthy adults of today continue to face some kind of sleep problems everyday. If they are patients of chronic ailments like heart disease or diabetes, they face even worse sleep disorders.

Most healthy adults of today continue to face some kind of sleep problems everyday. If they are patients of chronic ailments like heart disease or diabetes, they face even worse sleep disorders.

To be healthy and alert, adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Sound sleep allows the body to rejuvenate for functioning the next day by removing waste from the brain cells, plumping up the muscles, repairing tissues, boosting the required hormones for the next day, and flushing out the toxins from the body. This is why sleeping well every night is critical to lead a healthy life.

However, a stressful lifestyle takes a toll on our physical and mental health conditions and often deprives us of sleep. Those with heart-related issues especially find it tough to sleep through the night because of various side-effects of their ailment.

If you are waking up due to sleep problems, continue reading to know how you can effectively counter heart diseases to sleep peacefully in the night.

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is a heart problem-related breathing disorder that particularly plagues men with heart issues. Alternatively, severe OSA can also lead to cardiovascular problems. One study that followed men with severe sleep apnea for eight years concluded that those suffering from OSA were 58 percent more likely to develop congestive heart failure.

In sleep apnea, one stops breathing for a short period as the airway gets blocked, and wakes up in a panic, panting and short of breath. OSA is nightmarish for those suffering from it, as it leads to multiple night-time awakening. This, in turn, worsens heart failure and causes daytime drowsiness. OSA may also lead to angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or even a heart attack in sleep.


First and foremost: Don’t sleep on your back; sleep sideways to your left

  • Lifestyle corrections also help combat OSA – if you are overweight, lose weight, which in turn will help you sleep better
  • Exercise regularly – try yoga, as it is said to strengthen the heart, and also relax the body enough to help one sleep
  • Moderate alcohol intake and quit smoking – these acerbate OSA and lead to disruption of sleep
  • The elderly and those with other heart ailments might require medications, so consult a cardiologist

These days there are oral appliances that help keep the nasal passage and airway open to deal with OSA for a better night’s sleep – but those are to be strictly used only upon medical advice.

2. Orthopnea 

Many with heart diseases and other cardiovascular-related ailments such as high blood pressure suffer from orthopnea – the inability to breathe properly when lying down. Orthopnea is characterized by shortness of breath, caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs because of its inability to pump blood.

Breathlessness wakes up those suffering from orthopnea every two hours. Also, their fear of lying down leads to them trying to sleep in a sitting position, which is not an optimal sleep position. Though orthopnea is the result of cardiovascular ailments, it also worsens heart failure and ups the risk of a heart attack during sleep.


  • Doctors may prescribe diuretics to prevent fluid from building up in the body, which alternately will help ease the pressure in the lungs, helping one ease the symptoms of orthopnea and sleep better
  • Losing weight may also help – and so will sleeping with your hands on your belly, as that will help blood circulation
  • Propping up the upper body and head with pillows might temporarily relieve the symptoms and induce sleep for longer periods.
  • But know that orthopnea is a sign of heart failure and the treatment may require medical/surgical intervention and lifestyle changes thereof, so consulting a cardiologist is a must.

3. Insomnia

Those suffering from insomnia find themselves in a vicious circle. Heart problems lead to insomnia whereas not sleeping well, in turn, aggravates many other cardiovascular and health issues such as type 2 diabetes and weight gain, as well.

Insomnia is a major contributor to the poor quality of life led by chronic heart patients, who feel tired and fatigued because of sleep problems. Cardiac medications also disturb sleep, and all this, over time, leads to a greater risk of chronic heart failure.


  • Spend time outdoors – get lots of natural light so that a night-time pattern is mentally established.
  • Do mild exercises every day for at least half an hour.
  • Create a regular bedtime routine to make sleep a ‘habit’ for your mind and body.
  • Take a warm bath or shower a few hours before retiring to bed.
  • Lavender tea is said to induce sleep among insomniacs.
  • Consult your cardiologist to find out if any medications are messing with your sleep patterns.

4. Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) 

These are uncontrollable nervous twitches that occur during sleep. Chronic heart disease aggravates nerve traffic in the arms and legs during the night, which causes them to involuntary twitching while sleeping. These twitches often awaken the sleeping person momentarily, and though he or she might not remember waking up in the morning because of its brevity, they might wake up feeling tired and cranky.


  • Take a brief walk before going to bed to relax the body and muscles
  • A light massage of the limbs with an essential oil might help contain the symptoms
  • A cardiologist might prescribe suppressants of sedatives in chronic cases, but mostly, with lifestyle corrections, PLMD can be contained

Tips to Reduce Sleep Problems

In general, by following some of the steps below, getting a full night’s sleep can become easy.

  • Train your brain to sleep by using the bed only to sleep and not watch TV, work, read, etc.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and cool – also try to avoid bright artificial lighting in the bedroom – use a warm yellow night light, instead
  • Keep very regular sleep-wake timing – establish a bedtime ritual or routine
  • If you cannot sleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, don’t lie awake in bed and fret – get up and do something relaxing
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Cut caffeine intake post noon, and avoid smoking, drinking and eating a heavy meal 2-3 hours before bedtime

Regular exercise every morning also helps the body and mind relax and tire out enough to sleep through the night. 


While sleep problems leads to many health issues, heart diseases and cardiovascular irregularities often deprive one of quality sleep, upping the risk of heart attack and stroke. A healthcare app for your phone like Phable can be the best way to find reliable medical assistance for heart disease and sleep-related issues.

Phable is an innovative lifestyle disease management app simplifying life for patients & doctors through health monitoring and doctor intervention.

Download Phable Here!