Congestive Heart Failure, also known as CHF, is a condition that obstructs blood from adequately flowing throughout the body. This happens when the arteries in your heart are too narrow, and it often goes along with high blood pressure that has gone untreated for too long, which has made the heart too weak or stiff to pump blood correctly.
It's not uncommon for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and CHF to occur together, since the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems are so dependent on one another. If you have either one of these diseases, or both, you'll have a hard time getting enough oxygen into your bloodstream, and to the different parts of your body.
COPD has also been known to have a weakening effect on the heart because your heart needs the right amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing through it at all times.
Not getting enough oxygen throughout your body will generally make you feel exhausted, and you can't function the way you could before. Even a simple set of movements, like going to the bathroom can seem strenuous and make you feel out of breath. Sleeping especially can be hard to do.
It's estimated that around 40% of those with COPD develop a sleep breathing pattern that causes them to wake with a start during the night. This is called Cheyne-Stokes respiration, and it's like the feeling you get when you wake up from a dream where you are falling.
You wake suddenly, with a little rush of adrenaline, as if you've been startled. This happens when you suddenly stop breathing while you are sleeping, and is not classified as sleep apnea.
This sudden start is very bad for a weakened heart, such as one with congestive heart failure. This sudden pause in breathing, followed by the startled effect, happens when the oxygen level in the bloodstream drops too low.
This can be remedied with the use of a low dose of oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy is when a concentrated amount of oxygen is delivered to the patient, so the proper amount of oxygen can be delivered to the bloodstream.
Bob Messenger, RRT, Clinical Respiratory Education Specialist for Invacare Corporation, says “They wake up with a start—the same feeling as when a car stops in front of you and adrenaline is released. This will cause a startling effect, which is not good for a diseased heart. Fluctuations in the blood oxygen level drive this whole series of events. By supplementing the oxygen with a low dose, we can break the cycle and keep the heart healthy.”
To keep your heart, as well as the rest of you healthier, all you would need is a small dose of oxygen administered overnight. If you have COPD and are experiencing this sudden start while you are sleeping, let your doctor known. He or she may do an overnight observation to see if you will benefit from this treatment.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about congestive heart failure, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.
Page last updated: October 5, 2018
- WebMD. Congestive Heart Failure and Heart Disease. Last reviewed: September 05, 2018. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide-heart-failure#1