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To determine how excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and impaired cognition contribute to health-related quality of life (HRQL) in heart failure (HF).Adults with chronic HF were enrolled into a prospective cohort study. Data were obtained from 280 subjects enrolled from three sites in the northeastern USA; 242 completed the 6-month study. At baseline, cohorts with and without EDS were identified using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Each EDS group was further subdivided into those with and without impaired cognition using a battery of five neuropsychological tests. Two disease-specific measures, the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ) and the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire (FOSQ), were used to measure HRQL. General linear modelling of square-transformed variables was used to test the hypothesis that cohort membership was a significant predictor of HRQL. At 6 months the remaining sample was 62.5 [standard deviation (SD) 12] years old, mostly male (63%), white (65%), and functionally compromised [72% New York Heart Association (NYHA) class III/IV]. The cohort with both EDS and impaired cognition had the lowest KCCQ overall summary score (60.5 ± 22.5) compared with the cohort without EDS or impaired cognition (74.6 ± 17.4, P ≤ 0.001). A similar effect was seen on the FOSQ (16.0 ± 2.8 vs. 18.5 ± 2.2, P < 0.001).Impaired cognition alone did not explain poor HRQL, but the addition of EDS poses a significant risk for poor HRQL. Interventions designed to influence EDS may improve HRQL in this population.