Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The heart

Sleep apnea is fairly common in people with advanced heart failure. Sleep apnea means you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. It may cause you to snore loudly and not sleep well, so you wake up feeling tired.

Getting treatment for sleep apnea can help you sleep and feel better. It may also help keep your heart failure from getting worse.

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 call line 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. It may reduce the number of times you stop breathing or have slowed breathing.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Sleep on your side. It may stop mild apnea. If you tend to roll onto your back, sew a pocket in the back of your pajama top. Put a tennis ball into the pocket, and stitch the pocket shut. This will help keep you from sleeping on your back.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines such as sleeping pills and sedatives before bed.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make heart failure and sleep apnea worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Prop up the head of your bed 10 to 15 centimetres by putting bricks under the legs of the bed.
  • Try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing machine if your doctor recommends it. The machine keeps your airway from closing when you sleep.
  • If CPAP does not work out for you, ask your doctor if you can try another type of machine or device to help you breathe better.
  • If your nose feels dry or bleeds when you use one of these machines, talk with your doctor about increasing moisture in the air. A humidifier may help.
  • If your nose is runny or stuffy from using a breathing machine, talk with your doctor before using medicines to relieve congestion.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are sleepy during the day and it gets in the way of the normal things you do. Do not drive when you are drowsy.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You feel very tired.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You still have sleep apnea even though you have made lifestyle changes.
  • You are thinking of trying a device such as CPAP.
  • You are having problems using a CPAP or similar machine.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: January 27, 2016