How Do Varicose Veins Impact Sleep?

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Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging. Between limiting blue light emitting from your devices, turning down an evening caffeinated drink, and trying to quiet your mind, you may be taking several measures to help you fall asleep at night.

Still, the actual cause of your insomnia could be pain or other symptoms of your varicose veins, such as itching, muscle cramps, or swelling. In this article, we’ll explore various forms of varicose vein pain relief so that you can get the rest you need.

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How Varicose Veins Impact Sleep

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are too weak or damaged to pump blood properly. This condition, called chronic venous insufficiency, causes the one-way valves within the vein to malfunction.

For many people, varicose veins are primarily a cosmetic concern, as they can look blue or purple and twisted. Sometimes, though, they can cause pain. If you stand on your feet for long periods during the day, you may especially feel pain as you’re lying down to sleep. 

At night, varicose veins can cause a dull ache. Other people experience swollen feet or ankles that seem to worsen in the evening. You may have night cramps from your varicose veins or a feeling of restlessness in your legs. Or, your legs may feel heavy or difficult to move.

But, why do varicose veins hurt more at night? 

Fewer Distractions at Night

Over the course of your day, pressure can build in your veins, but you’re unaware of it as you go through your routine. That is, you’re too busy during the day to notice any pain or pressure in your legs. Once you go to bed, all that changes. When trying to settle down or sleep with varicose veins, you have fewer distractions and may be more aware of the pressure or aches.

Pooling Blood Within the Veins

As you sit, stand, and walk around during the day, these activities reduce the discomfort of varicose veins by improving blood flow.

At night, many people with varicose veins feel the need to hop out of bed and move around to find relief. That’s because many symptoms you experience, such as swollen ankles and dull aches, are caused by pooling blood within the varicose veins that slowly accumulates throughout the day. 

Your body urges you to move so the leg veins can compress, causing the blood to move out of your legs and back toward your heart. 

Restless Leg Syndrome

What can make varicose veins even more frustrating is if you have restless leg syndrome (RLS). This condition has many similar symptoms and, coupled with varicose veins, can lead to even more restless nights. With RLS, your legs may feel itchy and twitch, which may give you the urge to move your legs to stop the uncomfortable sensations. That urge to move can make it a challenge to get a good night’s sleep. 

How to Sleep With Varicose Veins

Fortunately, there is varicose vein pain relief available to you. Many activities and simple solutions can help ease the discomfort you experience at night due to varicose veins. Some of our tips are lifestyle changes aimed at preventing your varicose veins from causing a nighttime flare-up. Other recommendations are at-home remedies that can help relieve your pain if varicose veins keep you from a good night’s rest.

  • Get hydrated: Drinking more water is important for your overall health. Proper hydration throughout the day also positively impacts blood and lymph fluid flow. Water keeps your circulatory system healthy and encourages good flow in your veins and arteries. Additionally, you can promote hydration by lowering your intake of alcohol and salt.
  • Take a pre-bedtime walk: Many people have jobs that require hours of sitting or standing. These positions are not ideal if you struggle with varicose veins. The lack of motion can cause blood stasis in the veins, leading to increased pressure. A short 20- to 30-minute walk contracts the leg muscles and compresses the veins, forcing the blood up to your heart. An evening walk is a great preventative tool and keeps the pressure in your veins at a healthy level.
  • Use compression stockings: Compression stockings are specially designed to place pressure around your feet, ankles, and legs. Wearing them during the day, especially if you’re on your feet for long periods, can improve blood flow and reduce nighttime varicose vein pain. You can also wear them at night to help improve circulation to the ankles and calves, where varicose veins often cause issues.
  • Stretch: Another great way to improve blood flow is to exercise or stretch your legs throughout the day and before bed.
  • Use heat: A heating pad, a hot shower, or soaking your legs in hot water before bed can loosen the muscles so they don’t compress the veins when you go to bed. These actions allow blood to flow more freely through the veins in your legs and can help reduce pressure and relieve pain.
  • Seek medical treatment: If you continue to struggle with pain from varicose veins, it’s essential to seek medical advice from vein care experts. Practices like Central Florida Vein and Vascular Center can provide targeted treatment advice or even eliminate the underlying problem causing your vein issues.

Best Sleeping Positions for Varicose Veins

Switching your sleeping position is a simple solution that could ease your varicose vein symptoms. Here are some of the best varicose vein sleeping positions that may help you find some relief (and sleep) tonight:

  • Avoid sleeping on your belly: Sleeping on your stomach puts undue pressure on the backs of your legs and could trigger many of the uncomfortable symptoms you’ve been experiencing. 
  • Start sleeping on your side: Sleeping on your side, preferably on your left side, is considered one of the best sleeping positions for people with varicose veins. Side sleeping distributes the pressure more evenly between your hips and legs. It supports better blood flow and aids your heart in pumping more efficiently. Side sleeping also reduces swelling, as lymph fluid can flow more easily through the lymphatic system, strengthening your immune system.
  • Sleep with your legs raised: Because varicose veins occur when blood cannot properly flow back up to the heart, raising your legs while you sleep will improve blood flow. Elevated legs will also encourage your lymph fluid to flow, reducing swelling. Try propping your legs up with pillows or cushions or elevating them with books or boxes. You only need to raise your legs 3 to 4 inches, as this is just enough to position them above your heart and ensure there’s no compression on your veins.

How to Sleep After Varicose Vein Surgery

If you and your doctor have decided to seek surgery for your varicose veins, this treatment option often results in drastically improved quality of life and sleep. However, this type of operation is considered major surgery. Your body will need to rest to heal properly, and deep sleep is critical. 

Your medical team may recommend a minimum of seven days of rest after surgery. This healing period should include plenty of sleep, including naps. To ensure you get the rest you need, consider these post-surgical sleep tips, many of which are similar to those suggested above:

  • Elevate your legs: If your legs are lower than your heart or at the same level, blood flows downward, increasing blood pressure in your veins. Your legs will still be recovering, so it’s vital to reduce additional pressure. Elevating your legs at night can aid healing and help you sleep. Place a couple of pillows under your legs below the knee joints. 
  • Apply an ice pack: Your doctor may recommend icing your legs for 15 minutes at a time. This practice reduces swelling and helps you manage pain that could make sleep difficult. However, avoid ice from the freezer. DIY ice packs can melt, wetting your bandages. Opt for commercial cold packs, as these can be refrozen and mold around your legs.
  • Wear compression stockings: Most doctors recommend wearing compression stockings for at least three weeks after surgery. These gently squeeze your legs and prevent swelling, the symptom that most often leads to post-surgical pain, which can impact your sleep. Compression stockings also help stop blood from pooling or clotting in your veins. You may be tempted to “take a break” from your stockings, but don’t. Doing this could make you wake up the following day with severe swelling. 
  • Ask about over-the-counter medication: Ask your doctor if OTCs are right for you. This type of medication can relieve pain and help you sleep. However, some pain pills can hinder the healing process.
  • Take natural sleep aids: If you’re still finding it difficult to sleep after surgery, you could try natural sleep aids like chamomile, lavender, or melatonin. 

Get Support for Your Varicose Veins Today

You may find that you need medical treatment for your varicose veins, and Central Florida Vein and Vascular Center wants to help. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you sleep better.

Ocoee / Health Central

10000 W. Colonial Dr. #495
 Ocoee, FL 34761

(407) 293-5944 | Fax: (407) 293-7355
Hunters Creek / The Loop

1130 Cypress Glen Circle
 Kissimmee, FL 34741

(407) 293-5944 | Fax: (407) 293-7355
The Villages

1503 Buenos Aires Blvd. #123
 The Villages, FL 32159

(352) 561-2800 | Fax: (407) 293-7355