Causes & Symptoms of Heart Attack In Sleep

Submitted by Nic on January 30, 2013

Under normal circumstances, the heart like the rest of the body takes it easy when we sleep. The heart rate levels out and blood pressure drops as the body repairs itself and relaxes itself in preparation for the waking hours. Though uncommon, it is not unusual for people to suffer from heart attacks in their sleep. The onset of the heart attack may happen while the person is asleep but the symptoms are bound to wake him out of his slumber.

Causes Leading Up To a Heart Attack During Sleep

The causes of a heart attack during sleep are the same as those of a heart attack when awake. Long term causes include:

  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor diet
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Extreme Stress
  • Aneurysm

Warning Signs & Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat - Though this may be difficult to notice if you are in a deep sleep, it can be intense enough to wake you. Getting up with a rapid heartbeat is one of the first indications that something is wrong. If the heartbeat continues to be irregular for five minutes, you require immediate medical attention. In case you have no known sensitivity to aspirin, many experts suggest you chew on an aspirin until help reaches.
  • Disturbed Sleep - Studies show that people who have suffered a heart attack reported difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep for up to a month before the attack occurred. While tossing and turning in your sleep may not be enough of a warning sign, fatigue during the day due to a poor night's rest is another indication that you suffer from sleep disturbances.
  • Night Sweats - If you get up in the night drenched in a cold sweat, it is possibly a symptom of an impending heart attack.
  • Pain in the Chest - This is the most recognizable sign of a heart attack. A sharp stabbing pain in the chest or a dull ache that spreads could indicate a myocardial infarction. This pain can occur while you are sleeping or develop as soon as you get up.
  • Referred Pain - Pain or an ache in the arms, shoulders or back may also be a sign of a heart attack. This pain can come and go and can vary from dull or mild to sharp and throbbing.

However, chest pain and the above symptoms may not always precede a heart attack. In cases of a 'silent heart attack' there are no obvious symptoms at all.

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