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January 20, 2017
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
You’re settling down for a good night’s sleep but suddenly you feel
your heart racing. You panic – could this be the sign that something is
seriously wrong? What does it mean if your heart always seems to race
and pound at night? A racing heart can be the sign of something
serious or simply the result of your heart’s natural rhythms – there are
a number of reasons for a racing heart at night.
What is a Racing Heart?
When your heart races it is also called heart palpitations, which means
you have the sensation that your heart is going faster than normal. You
could also experience skipped beats, an irregular rhythm, or beating
more strongly than usual.
Sometimes these changes are the result of actual changes in your heart
beat and sometimes they are caused by a higher awareness of your
own heart beating – which can be a particular problem at night when
there is less noise and activity.
A racing heart at night is usually caused by the same things that result
in a racing heart during the day. It is not usually dangerous, although
there are some underlying conditions that can cause a racing heart that
need to be seen by a physician. If your racing heart is not caused by an
underlying condition it can usually be controlled.
How Fast is a Racing Heart?
So what is normal, and what is “racing” when it comes to your heart
rate? The US National Institutes of Health says everyone over the age
of 10, including older adults, has a normal resting heart rate of 60-100
heartbeats per minute.
That is what your heart should be doing when you are resting in bed at
However, if you are athletic and you have done a lot of training you
may have a heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. If you feel your
heart racing you will probably be experiencing a faster heart rate than
During the day, and the night, your heart undergoes a perfectly normal
range of rates. It sometimes goes up and you feel your heart beat
faster. Why does it do this? And why does it do this at night – when
you should be relaxed and resting?
What Makes Your Heart Race at Night?
Causes of a racing heart at all times of the day or night include lifestyle
triggers, emotional or psychological triggers, medication, hormonal
changes, heart problems, and other medical conditions.
If you experience a racing heart at night, lifestyle triggers include
exercising heavily in the evening, drinking tea or coffee or other
caffeinated beverages before bed, drinking alcohol, smoking a lot,
eating rich or spicy foods, or taking illegal drugs.
A racing heart can be caused by nervousness, anxiety, stress, or panic
attacks. Some medications can cause a racing heart, and so too can
hormonal changes including the changes during menopause and
Heart rhythm problems that need to be seen by a doctor include atrial
fibrillation, atrial flutter, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), and
ventricular tachycardia. Heart failure and congenital heart disease can
also cause a racing heart, as can hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, low
blood sugar levels, anemia, and a high temperature.
Don't Sleep on Your Left Side If Your Heart Race
For many people who experience a racing heart at night, they do not
have significantly different heart rate during the day but it is much
easier to notice a racing heart at night when there are fewer sounds
Heart palpitations and a racing heart at night may be caused by the way
Sleeping on the left or on your back can put pressure on the vagus
nerve, which may cause more awareness of your heart beat. Drinking
alcohol or caffeine before bed, or eating a large meal, may also cause
your heart to race at night.
Is a Racing Heart At Night Something to Worry About?
Many people experience the feeling that their heart is racing at night. In
a healthy heart, it is not normally something to be concerned about. If
you are concerned about your heart, it is a good idea to get your
symptoms checked by a doctor. If you experience chest pain, back
pain, dizziness, numbness, or shortness of breath you need to see a
doctor quickly as this can be the sign of a heart attack.
We looked at recent scientific research to find out why a heart races at
night, and what you can do to remedy the situation quickly.
1. Skip the Energy Drinks to Stop Your Heart Racing at Night
Research shows that abnormal heart reactions occur with as little as
two energy drinks a day. If you have been drinking a lot of these
during the day, your heart can race when you sleep or when you rest
A 2016 study from the University of Adelaide's Discipline of
Pharmacology in Australia shows that drinking more than two a day
can cause heart palpitations, increased heart rate, and chest pain.
Energy drinks affect your body within 24 hours. In the study, 70
percent of people coming to a hospital with heart palpitations between
2014 and 2015 had previously consumed some type of energy drink in
their life, and 36 percent had drank at least one of these drinks in the
24 hours before going to hospital.
The researchers reported that "fast heartbeat, heart palpitations and
chest pain was seen in energy drink consumers who were healthy and
had no risk factors for heart disease."
2. Acupuncture Eases a Racing Heart Caused By Hormonal Imbalances
A racing heart at night or in the day time may be caused by an
imbalance in hormones.
In 2011 a study from New York Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell
Medical College of Cornell University demonstrated that acupuncture
eased side effects like heart palpitations and heart racing in men who
underwent testosterone treatment for prostate cancer. The study
looked at 14 men who were undergoing the treatment.
3. Be Careful with a Racing Heart as it could Be a Sign of Atrial
Studies show that a racing heart or heart palpitations is a risk factor for
atrial fibrillation (AF). Having a history of a racing heart as well as a
history of hypertension were the strongest risk factors for this
dangerous health condition, according to a 2012 study from the
University of Tromsø in Norway.
Atrial fibrillation is a form of arrhythmia, where the heart beats too fast
or too irregularly. If your heart races at night and it happens on a
regular basis, you could have this problem. Researchers looked at over
22,000 people in a wide study that lasted 11 years.
4. Plant Extracts to Calm a Racing Heart
A racing heart at night may be caused by anxiety or stress, the results
of which often manifest themselves when you are trying to relax.
A 2004 study from Innothera Laboratories, France showed that a
herbal combination therapy with magnesium, hawthorn, and
Eschscholtzia californica (California poppy) proved successful as an
anti-anxiety treatment, so it could be used to ease a racing heart that is
caused by anxiety.
5. Ease a Racing Heart at Night Caused by Hyperthyroidism
An overactive thyroid, called "hyperthyroidism" occurs when your
thyroid gland releases too much thyroid hormone.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, fatigue, a fast heart
rate, and heart palpitations. It is not advisable to self-treat
hyperthyroidism, so if you think your racing heart at night is caused by
this condition it is wise to see a doctor.
However, the herb bugleweed has shown promise in reducing the
levels of thyroid hormones and can impair the thyroid production
process, as demonstrated by studies including a 1981 report by Dr. J
Kohrle and Dr. M Auf'mkolk.
6. See to a Racing Heart at Night to Treat Heart Disease
According to the British Heart Foundation (2015), large studies have
confirmed that a higher than average resting heart rate can predict
your likelihood of dying – whether you have heart disease or not.
The scientists at the British Heart Foundation say that people who take
medications to lower their heart rate reduce their chances of dying. If
your heart always races at night, it is a good idea to get it checked out
by a doctor.
7. Treat Sleep Apnea to Cure a Racing Heart
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea it may cause a racing heart,
according to a 2014 study from The George Washington University
USA. This is because sufferers have reduced activity among the
neurons that are responsible for keeping the heart rate at a normal
level, according to researchers.
Treat sleep apnea in order to reduce the risk of problems at a later
stage with high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
Researchers looked at a model of the condition in rats over four weeks,
and found the neurons that controlled heart rate were affected by this
common health problem.
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|Sleeping on your left side can make
your heart race at night.