Many factors can cause a person to wake up with a racing heart, including stress, sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, and changes in blood sugar levels.
Sometimes, people may wake up feeling like their heart is beating very fast or pounding in the chest. They may also feel shaky or anxious when this happens.
“Tachycardia” is the medical term for a rapid heart rate. It is not always a matter of concern but can indicate a medical condition. If a person’s heart rate changes, they can seek medical advice to rule out any serious issues.
This article discusses why someone may wake up with their heart racing and when to contact a doctor.
Anxiety and stress can trigger the release of hormones in the blood that raise the heart rate. Statistics suggest that around 31% of heart palpitation cases may be due to a mental factor such as stress, anxiety, or internal conflict.
Blood sugar levels can affect a person’s heart rate.
However, a 2021 study that looked at data from more than 300,000 people found no evidence that caffeine increased the risk of heart rate changes. Instead, the findings suggested that drinking coffee might reduce this risk by
Learn whether it is possible to overdose on caffeine.
It takes several hours for the body to process large amounts of alcohol, and the effects of drinking in the evening can continue throughout the night and into the morning.
Learn about the health risks of chronic heavy drinking.
A nightmare is a disturbing dream that can cause physical symptoms, such as respiratory difficulties. This may cause a person to wake up with a racing heart. They may also experience sweating and shaking.
Night terrors can also cause individuals to wake up feeling panicked with a racing heart.
Learn more about night terrors.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that
- sleep paralysis
- sudden drowsiness
- sudden muscle weakness
- attacks of sleep
A lack of sleep may also cause a person to feel that their heart rate is higher than usual.
Sleep disturbances or not getting enough sleep can cause several health issues. The next day, the person may also feel that their heartbeat is slightly faster.
Learn more about sleep deprivation.
Read about the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Waking up with a racing heart may also be due to hormone changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause. More specifically, a racing heart can occur due to changing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Around menopause, declining estrogen levels can lead to palpitations. Palpitations may also occur during hot flashes.
Learn more about palpitations and menopause.
Changes in the body’s temperature, for example, during a fever, may also cause changes in heart rate.
A fast or irregular heart rate may be a side effect of various medications,
- antiarrhythmic drugs, such as adenosine
- some anticancer drugs, for example, trastuzumab
- anticonvulsants, such as lacosamide
- some antidepressants, for instance, citalopram
- herbal remedies, such as Ginkgo biloba
Anyone taking medications should speak with a doctor about possible side effects affecting the heart.
A person should seek help for any change in heart rhythm or heart rate as it can signal an underlying issue.
A doctor may perform tests and order a Holter monitor. This records heart activity. It can monitor heart rhythms and help with diagnosis.
A person needs urgent medical attention if they have a history of heart disease or signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain.
Below are answers to some common questions about heart palpitations at night.
I cannot sleep because of palpitations. What should I do?
Anyone who often notices changes in heart rhythm should seek medical advice as they may indicate an underlying health issue. If palpitations are due to stress, breathing exercises or meditation may help. If a person takes medication for a heart condition and has palpitations, they should contact a doctor. The medication may need a review.
Why do I get palpitations at night?
This can happen if a person has a heart condition, such as AFib. Other possible causes of arrhythmia or a rapid heart rate include:
- sleep apnea
- a lack of sleep
- alcohol use
- changes in blood sugar
- hormonal fluctuations
Waking up with a racing heart is not necessarily a cause for concern, but it is best to seek medical advice.
Causes include stress, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and hormone changes.
A doctor may determine that no treatment is necessary. However, they may also recommend tests or refer someone to a specialist for further investigation.