If you’ve ever felt an irregular heartbeat, you know it’s very scary. What you might not know is that there is a bit of a connection between sleep and premature ventricular contractions or PVCs. Although some PVCs are harmless, they can also be a sign of other health problems so it’s best to check with your doctor just in case. That said, they are usually harmless. If you suffer from insomnia, there are a few things you should know about PVCs and sleep.
Here’s the take away: PVCs can be caused by lack of sleep but feeling PVCs can also cause anxiety which only leads to more insomnia. Since stress and anxiety are leading contributors to both PVCs and insomnia, staying calm and getting enough sleep is essential.
I know it’s hard to stay calm when you feel something unusual going on in your body. That’s why it’s important to know a little about PVCs, why they happen, and the relationship they have with insomnia.
What Is a PVC?
In order to understand what a PVC is, you have to know a little bit about how the heart works.
Your heart has four chambers. The two upper chambers are the left and right atria and the two lower chambers are the left and right ventricles. Deoxygenated blood from the body returns to the heart through the right atrium and is pumped into the right ventricle. From there, it travels through the lungs to get reoxygenated then into the right atrium. Then, the oxygen-rich blood goes into the left ventricle and is pumped back into the body.
A PVC begins in one of the ventricles. It’s essentially an extra heartbeat that disrupts your heart’s normal rhythm and feels like a fluttering or a skipped heartbeat. PVCs are very common. If you feel one occasionally but are otherwise healthy, there’s probably nothing to worry about and they don’t require treatment. That said, if you feel them frequently or if you have any underlying health issues, you should consult with your doctor.
What Causes PVCs?
PVCs are the result of interrupted electrical pathways in the heart which causes an unstable rhythm. They can be brought on by certain medications, alcohol or drug use, caffeine, tobacco, anxiety, or exercise. Other more serious conditions can cause them, too, including coronary artery disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
Are PVCs Dangerous?
A lot of people have occasional PVCs and never need treatment. That said, if you have any underlying health issues, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. While PVCs can be harmless, they can also result from things like anemia, infections, or other cardiac problems so prolonged, frequent PVCs can indicate something more serious.
If you have PVCs often and they continue for long periods of time, they could damage your heart or lead to more significant arrhythmias. When PVCs happen one right after the other, it could lead to a condition ventricular tachycardia which is a medical emergency.
I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t helping to ease your mind but stick with me. From my research, I found that most PVCs are not treated with medication and are not life-threatening. Usually, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes like smoking cessation, controlling anxiety, and limiting caffeine and alcohol.
Don’t panic. It’s important to remember that occasional PVCs are common and not necessarily something to be alarmed about. As long as you’re generally healthy, a PVC now and then is not something to lose sleep over. I know that’s easy to say but, really, losing sleep could actually make the problem worse.
How Does Insomnia Cause PVCs?
There are a few ways to look at this connection. First, insomnia leads to exhaustion and the PVCs can be a reaction to your body just being worn out. Second, the same problems that are causing you to lose sleep at night may also be causing PVCs. Lastly, if you feel a PVC when you’re already struggling with insomnia, you’re just going to worry and lose more sleep. The relationship between the two isn’t black and white but there is a connection.
When you’re suffering from insomnia, your body does all kinds of things to cope with the lack of sleep. From my research, I found that exhaustion can cause the body to release a burst of adrenaline which can cause stress to the heart muscle. This, in turn, can cause a PVC.
It’s important to remember that stress and anxiety can cause both insomnia and PVCs. So, while they have a tendency to occur together, one is not necessarily causing the other. They’re just both brought on by the same thing.
Sleeping When You’re Worried about PVCs
As I mentioned, one of the main causes of insomnia is anxiety. Lying awake at night worrying about a recent breakup or the loss of your job is common and can lead to serious serious sleep issues that last for days.
The best thing you can do to prevent PVCs is to manage your stress. Here are some things you can try to manage anxiety so you can sleep at night:
- Prepare for the next day. Choose your outfit and make sure your clothes are ironed and ready to go for the morning. Make a list of all the things on your agenda for the next day. Pack your lunch or gym bag ahead of time. The more prepared you are for the morning, the less you’ll have to worry about at bedtime.
- Get a hot bath in the evening. Try adding some lavender essential oil to the water or lighting a stress-relief candle.
- Try controlled breathing. Take ten slow, deep breaths when you get in bed to help yourself calm down.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke or drink too much caffeine as these stimulants can affect your ability to relax hours after you’ve used them.
- Talk yourself through your day. Sometimes, we worry and we really don’t know why. By mentally going over your schedule for the next day, you’ll be prepared to face it in the morning.
- Exercise. Nothing gets stress and tension out of your body like physical activity. Make exercise a regular part of your routine and your body will be ready to fall asleep when you lay down in bed at night.
- Meditate or do yoga. Both of these things force you to slow down and pay attention to your body. People that suffer from severe anxiety often search for something that’s triggering it when there isn’t really a specific cause. Sometimes, slowing down and focusing on your body and mind can minimize stress.
- Distract yourself. Take a walk, listen to music, clean, sketch, write, read, watch your favorite movie. Sometimes, turning off the stress is as simple as letting yourself do something else.
Will Getting Enough Sleep Stop PVCs?
There’s a good chance that insomnia and PVCs are both being brought on by the same stress and anxiety so getting enough sleep might be enough to stop PVCs from occurring. The trick is learning how to relax, even when your heart skips an occasional beat.
Again, if you notice that you’re experiencing PVCs more frequently or if you finally get a solid night’s sleep and they’re still occurring, consult your doctor, just to be on the safe side. Pay attention to your body but don’t panic. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and try to get some rest.