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Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea: Care Instructions


Sleep apnea is fairly common in people with heart failure. Sleep apnea means you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. Types of sleep apnea include central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). CSA is caused by a problem with how the brain signals the breathing muscles. OSA happens when your airway gets blocked while you sleep. Some people have both types.

When you stop breathing, the amount of oxygen in your blood drops, so your heart has to work harder to get enough oxygen to your body's tissues. Your heart failure symptoms may get worse. Sleep apnea may also cause you to snore loudly and not sleep well, so you wake up feeling tired.

Getting treatment for sleep apnea may help you sleep and feel better.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Lose weight, if needed.
  • Sleep on your side. It may help mild apnea.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines such as sleeping pills, opioids, or sedatives before bed.
  • Don't smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor.
  • Prop up the head of your bed.
  • Treat breathing problems, such as a stuffy nose, that are caused by a cold or allergies.
  • Try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing machine if your doctor recommends it.
  • If CPAP doesn't work for you, ask your doctor if you can try other masks, settings, or breathing machines.
  • Try oral breathing devices or other nasal devices.
  • Talk to your doctor if your nose feels dry or bleeds, or if it gets runny or stuffy when you use a breathing machine.
  • Tell your doctor if you're sleepy during the day and it affects your daily life. Don't drive or operate machinery when you're drowsy.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.