A heart palpitation is the sensation of an abnormally fast or irregular heartbeat. Palpitations may occur as a symptom of an underlying condition or another factor.
Palpitations may occur at any time of day, including at night when a person lies down to sleep.
This article will explore what heart palpitations are, why they may occur at night, and what causes them. It will also explore treatment options, the difference between heart palpitations and arrhythmias, and how a doctor diagnoses heart palpitations.
People with heart palpitations typically experience
- an abnormally fast heartbeat
- a fluttering heart
- skipping beats or extra beats
- a pounding sensation in the chest or neck
Heart palpitations may occur at any time, including during the day or at night. They can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
People who sleep on their side, particularly on the left side, may be more prone to heart palpitations at night. This is because the heart is right next to the chest wall, and the sensation reverberates.
A person who has nightmares may also experience an
Heart palpitations may also be more noticeable at night because there are fewer distractions and lower noise levels when lying in bed.
There are several possible causes of heart palpitations, including external factors and some underlying health conditions.
Some common causes
- certain medications, such as asthma inhalers, cold medication, or thyroid pills
- certain recreational drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy
- exercise or physical activity
- excessive consumption of certain foods, such as chocolate
- lack of sleep
Some underlying conditions may also cause heart palpitations. These include:
- heart conditions, such as ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, and atrial flutter
- Paget’s disease
- overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- an abnormal buildup of immune cells known as mast cells (mastocytosis)
- low blood pressure
- psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks
- low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Heart palpitations can sometimes be a symptom of arrhythmias. However, not everyone with an arrhythmia will feel the sensation of their heart beating irregularly.
Occasional heart palpitations do not necessarily require medical advice or treatment. However, a person should see a doctor if they experience the
Heart palpitations occur randomly. Due to this, they may not happen during a consultation with a doctor or while wearing a heart monitor, which can make the diagnosis more challenging.
- when the palpitations occur
- what sensations they cause
- how long they last
- how frequently they occur
- what factors trigger the palpitations, such as medications, caffeine, or heavy meals
- what lifestyle factors could contribute
- what underlying conditions a person has
The doctor will then perform a physical examination. They may also order one or more tests, including:
- Holter monitoring for 24–48 hours to show how the heart typically functions
- an electrocardiogram (EKG), which reports the heart’s rhythm
- an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart to examine its structure using soundwaves
- a continuous-loop event recorder, which is an implanted device that looks for abnormalities in heart rhythm over time
- a stress test, such as a treadmill exercise, to determine the heart’s health
- blood tests to check for underlying conditions, such as anemia, thyroid imbalance, or low potassium
Treatment for heart palpitations will vary depending on the
A person may not require any treatment if the palpitations are not causing harm or any other symptoms. However, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce the frequency of palpitations,
- avoiding activities that cause stress or performing activities that reduce stress
- stopping smoking
- avoiding or reducing caffeine intake
- avoiding or reducing alcohol intake
A doctor may also review a person’s medications and supplements to determine whether they are causing or contributing to palpitations. If a known underlying condition is the cause, a person should follow medical advice to treat the condition.
If a doctor diagnoses an abnormal heart rhythm, some common treatments
- Cardiac ablation: A doctor threads small wires through the legs into the heart to find the location of the arrhythmia. They then use energy to destroy the area of heart tissue responsible.
- Defibrillation: Doctors implant a device to regulate the heartbeat through electrical pulses.
- Cardioversion: Electrical shocks help return the heart to a normal rhythm.
- Medications: Medications, such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers, help the heart return to a normal rhythm.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about heart palpitations.
Occasional palpitations do not affect a person’s general health. However, if a person is experiencing frequent or consistent palpitations, they should speak with a doctor, as there may be an underlying cause.
Heart palpitations are common and can occur in many circumstances. For example, a person may experience heart palpitations after physical activity or in different emotional states, such as stress, anxiety, panic, or fear.
However, heart palpitations may be abnormal if a person is experiencing them frequently or the palpitations increase.
It may not always be possible to stop heart palpitations. However, in most cases, they go away on their own.
Certain actions may help
If none of the above methods work, a person should contact emergency medical services. The palpitations may be the result of an underlying heart condition.
A heart palpitation is the awareness of the heart beating either irregularly or quickly. Heart palpitations may occur at any time of day, including at night.
There are numerous possible causes and triggers, such as taking certain medications or consuming too much caffeine.
Heart palpitations can also occur due to one of several underlying health conditions, which range in severity and include dehydration and heart disease.
Heart palpitations may be a symptom of an arrhythmia. However, not every person who has an arrhythmia will have heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations should go away within a few seconds to a few minutes. If they do not, or sensations of confusion, chest pain, or trouble breathing accompany them, a person should seek emergency medical attention immediately.