Signs Your Sleepiness Could Be Heart Failure

If you're experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, it could be a sign of underlying medical conditions, such as heart failure. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2000 revealed that excessive daytime sleepiness could be an early warning sign of underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and even mortality, particularly in older adults. Similarly, a 2014 study published in Sleep Medicine found a strong link between daytime sleepiness and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study showed that women who experienced daytime sleepiness almost every day had a 58% higher risk of CVD compared to those who rarely or never experienced such sleepiness. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one of the crucial but often overlooked aspects of heart failure is its potential link to sleepiness. When the heart is not pumping as much blood as it should, the body tries to compensate for this by prioritizing the most important organs like the brain and heart. This means that blood is diverted away from less critical areas, affecting the muscles in your limbs and causing tiredness, weakness, and daytime sleepiness.

Signs and symptoms of heart failure

If you find yourself feeling excessively tired during the day along with other symptoms, it could indicate heart failure (per AHA). One common symptom is shortness of breath. When the heart cannot keep up with the blood supply needed by the body, fluid can accumulate in the lungs. This fluid can make it difficult for you to breathe properly and trigger persistent coughing or wheezing. Sometimes, this can happen suddenly at night and disturb your sleep.

People with heart failure may experience edema, which can cause swelling in different parts of the body, like the feet, ankles, legs, fingers, and abdomen, and may also be accompanied by weight gain. Healthline states that edema happens because the heart is unable to adequately pump blood, which can cause blood to accumulate in veins and lead to the release of fluid from blood vessels into other tissues. You might have digestive problems, such as feeling full or nauseous, because of insufficient blood supply to the digestive system. You may also experience an increased heart rate or heart palpitations as your heart tries to compensate for its reduced pumping capacity. Additionally, changes in certain substances, such as sodium in the blood, can lead to reduced blood flow to the brain, which can cause confusion, memory loss, and disorientation.

A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of heart failure

Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in decreasing your risk of heart disease. To keep your heart healthy, incorporate more fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products into your diet. Also, cutting back on sodium can help you manage fluid retention. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can do wonders for your heart's health and efficiency.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, managing chronic stress is vital for maintaining good heart health. You can promote relaxation and reduce stress by practicing stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. Adequate, high-quality sleep is essential, as sleep disturbances can exacerbate heart failure symptoms (per AHA). Excessive alcohol consumption can also worsen heart failure symptoms.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heart failure and their possible link to sleepiness is the start of a journey toward a healthy heart. It's also essential to understand the significance of early detection and lifestyle changes to reduce the risks associated with heart failure. If you're feeling sleepy, out of breath, or have other symptoms of heart failure, talk to your doctor. With early treatment, you can manage the condition, prevent it from worsening, and start feeling more like yourself again.