March 2022

Is PAD Interrupting Your Sleep?

Leg pain can be caused by a lot of different things. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one of them. This condition often results from plaque building up in arteries that carry blood away from the heart to the legs and other areas of the body.

PAD is infamous for causing muscle pain and cramps in the calves, especially while walking or going up stairs. But it can also be felt in the feet, hips, and buttocks, or anywhere in between. The pain usually retreats soon after you stop. However, once PAD becomes more severe, pain can appear when at rest—disturbing precious slumber.

Two sets of legs sticking out of covers in a bed


Advanced PAD

A severe decrease in blood flow to the legs and feet causes critical limb ischemia (CLI). This advanced stage of PAD triggers ongoing pain that worsens when you prop your feet up or lay down. Other potentially serious signs of PAD include:

●      Cracks and sores that won’t heal, especially between toes

●      Skin on one limb that’s paler or colder than on the other one

●      An inability to feel or move the affected foot

Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical care right away. Without treatment, up to 40% of people with CLI could end up having an amputation within 12 months.

Related sleep disorders

People with PAD are more likely to have disorders that interfere with quality shut-eye, such as:

  1. Sleep apnea. This condition frequently causes breathing to stop for 10 to 30 seconds. Gasping or snorting when breathing restarts can make you wake up.

  2. Restless leg syndrome. Tingly, achy, or burning sensations often take place at night. Moving legs brings temporary relief but keeps you awake. That and involuntary twitching lead to sleep loss.

Act now

The first step toward reclaiming your zz’s is telling a healthcare provider about foot and leg pain or consistent trouble sleeping.

To sleep better—and prevent or manage PAD—you should also:

●      Stop smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes can keep you awake. What’s more, this habit puts you at a greater risk for CLI if you have PAD.

●      Keep moving. Exercise, such as walking, improves blood flow throughout the body and helps with sleep. Ask your provider for advice on working through any discomfort.

●      Address other health problems. High blood pressure and diabetes, for example, are linked to sleep disorders and PAD. If you take medicine, ask your provider or pharmacist about side effects. Some, such as ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, disrupt sleep. Never stop taking a medicine unless your provider says it’s OK first.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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