Waking Up Heart Racing? Here Are The Real Reasons It Happens And Solutions!

There's nothing more terrifying than waking up heart racing and having no apparent reason for why its happening! Could it be a panic attack? Is it Hypoglycemia?

Or worse..!

Is it a heart attack?

Throughout this article, you'll learn more about the causes of why you wake up with your heart pounding hard. The possible causes of this problem and exactly what you can do to stop it.

Much like you, I've had that dreaded experience on multiple occasions. The first time I felt it I was scared out of my mind and literally out of my sleep. I had just came home from a hard, stressful day at work and immediately took a shower to prepare for bed.

While in bed, I felt perfectly fine. I had the optimal resting heart rate, and I wasn't anxious about anything. Soon after lying on the bed, I awakened with sweat all over and in a complete panic. Upon waking, my heart rate was through the roof!

I immediately grabbed my phone and tried checking my BPM and needless to say it was a whopping 138 bpm! I hurriedly got dressed and went straight to the ER only to be told that everything seemed normal.

heart pounding after waking up

Has this ever happened to you? If yes then read on!

Even after all my tests, I woke up heart racing again a few nights after. Then it happened about two weeks ago. That's what lead me to seek the opinions of several sleep experts and studies about what could be causing us to be waking up with a rapid heart rate. I got some essential feedback that finally put my worries to rest.

Here's what you should know:

What Causes You To Wake Up With Your Heart Racing?

A healthy adult's heart rate usually is somewhere between 60 and 100bpm. So while you are sleeping your heart rate will be hovering between these parameters.

If you've ever experienced waking up with your heart pounding, then you know how terrible a feeling it is. You often wake up in a panic and feeling disoriented. It also happens very suddenly and also features other symptoms that are not what you would expect upon waking in the morning.

Symptoms of waking up with your heart beating fast are:

  • Rapid Heart Rate
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    Shortness of breath
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    Cold sweats
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    Anxiety
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    Lightheadedness
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    Heart palpitations

Is It Normal to wake up with a rapid heart rate?

waking up with a pounding heart

A fast pulse rate is not commonly a significant cause for concern. The truth is that it isn't normal, but it isn't necessarily a life-threatening event either. While I say, it's not life-threatening it is always advisable to seek proper medical help when in doubt. Being too cautious when about your health is never a bad thing.

However, I'm sure sometime in the past you were woken up by a pounding heart.

Waking up with a fast heart rate and sweating a lot is more uncomfortable than it is life-threatening. Even though it MAY not have life-threatening causes, it can be a nuisance to your sleep patterns.

As such it is essential to find out what reasons could cause your heart to be beating fast after waking up! Also, precisely what can be done to stop reduce your symptoms and help you sleep better!

Why are you Waking Up With A Pounding Heart?

A heavy heartbeat when waking can be a scary feeling in the morning. The most common causes why you'll experience this are heart palpitations, shortness of breath or anxiety caused by underlying stress or bad dreams.

A Word of Caution:

Although most cases of waking up with a pounding heart are benign, there have been cases where underlying health conditions are at fault. These underlying health conditions are severe and should never be overlooked.

I've made a list of the top health conditions that cause this issue. You should carefully read each one and seek medical attention if you think it applies to your situation.

Health conditions that can cause you to have a high heart rate when waking up:

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea heart racing at nights

Sleep apnea is a dangerous medical condition. It is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen you take in while you sleep. Persons that snore and stops breathing for short intervals during their sleep are likely to have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea increases a person's risk of developing high blood pressure or stroke. This health condition severely impacts your quality of life and sleep patterns. It often causes persons to wake up feeling as if they didn't sleep for days.

This medical condition is caused by the relaxing of muscles in your throat. This relaxation of the muscles can cause a blockage which stops the flow of oxygen to your lungs. Your tongue falling to the back of your throat while you sleep may also be a cause.

If you think you have apnea, it is very likely that you wake up with your heart beating fast, sweating and having a headache.

Nightmare or Night Terrors

nightmares and night terrors

Look:

Nightmares aren't anything out of the norm for most persons. By this point in your life, you should have had your fair share of nightmares. If you have, then the most common thing you would've experienced is jumping out of bed with your heart beating fast, sweating, and a high respiration rate. It often involves a very vivid dream that leaves you feeling trapped.

The great news is that in many cases these nightmares are harmless. Even though you wake up with your heart in a sprint, it is usually nothing too worrying.

If these nightmares persist for longer than a few times a week or consistently, then seeking medical attention is recommended.

Stress/Emotional Factors 

Stress causes heart racing and heart palpitations

Stress or other Emotional Triggers can often lead to panic attacks and waking up with a racing heart. It is a known fact that panic attacks can produce the symptoms of many illnesses. The most common symptoms that will be presented by your panic attack are shortness of breath, increased heart rate or palpitations, nausea and lightheadedness. 

Panic Attacks are challenging to understand as they are most times without cause. They typically happen when you have some emotional stress or trauma. These trigger the panic attack which causes you to imagine minor matters in destructive ways. These attacks create an adrenal rush in your body and influence your heart to beat fast after waking up.(1)

Panic attacks are also thought to be caused by genetics and changes that may alter the way some parts of your brain functions. These could be an imbalance in neurotransmitters of the brain.

If you wake up with a racing heart and trembling, then a panic attack could likely be the cause. Always seek immediate medical attention whenever symptoms occur that are outside of the norm. It never hurts being too careful when your life and health is at stake.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is known as an irregular or very often rapid heart rate. This medical condition may cause reduced blood flow. Undiagnosed atrial fibrillation can lead to developing blood clots, strokes or even heart failure. In many cases of atrial fibrillation, a cause is hard to be determined, but it is still a serious condition.

If you suspect that you have atrial fibrillation because of a pounding heart when waking up, seek medical attention promptly.

Hormonal Changes in Women

Your hormones control the way your body reacts at different times. For women that may be menstruating, going through menopause or pregnancy; having a fast heart rate while sleeping that wakes you up is not unnatural. These changes in hormones can be sudden and can last for brief moments, or they could last a while.

Medication

Frequently, your racing heart or palpitations are as a result of the medications you take. If you have started a new medication, you may need to look into the side effects of the drug.

Most medications have some heart-related side effects that can lead to this issue.

Therefore, knowing the exact side effects can help put your mind at ease and help you sleep through the racing heart.

You can also consult your doctor and ask about the medications you use.

some medications cause your heart to race

Diet or Exercise

bad diets can lead to your heart pounding while sleeping

OK. You might be asking…

How can diet or exercise cause you to wake up heart racing in the night? Afterall, "diet and exercise" are healthy and should do more good than to harm you right?

Wrong!

The things you consume before bed can affect your sleep. If you've had a cup of Starbucks coffee, then you can expect to wake up with a pounding heart.

Caffeine is a potent stimulant for the autonomic nervous system. Your Autonomic Nervous System(ANS) regulates your heart and other organs. The autonomic nervous system, when triggered by the caffeine, increases your heart rate to provide more energy to your body.

Being mindful of the foods eat or drink before going to bed is also essential. Some foods contain ingredients which can increase your heart rate. If you've taken a protein supplement before working out and then heading to bed, you are also at risk for this problem.

Low Blood Sugar 

having low blood sugar

Hypoglycemia, as it is referred to by medical professionals, happens when your blood glucose levels become too low. Persons with diabetes are likely to experience hypoglycemia. However, healthy individuals are not exempt from this condition. Hypoglycemia can happen at any time of the day and especially at nights.

Symptoms of low blood sugar:

  • Sweating
  • Disorientation or Feeling confused
  • Sleep Interruptions

Hypoglycemia can affect you when you sleep and cause fast pounding heartbeats for many reasons. The main reasons are that you may have exercised late into the night or ate foods that are quickly absorbed in the bloodstream.

Low Blood Pressure 

Your blood pressure plays a vital role in your health. Most persons have heard about high blood pressure or hypertension. 

However, there exists a similar health condition called low blood pressure(hypotension) that can also severely impact your health. In hypotension, your blood pressure falls below what is required for the body to perform normally.(2)

While you are sleeping, it is possible for your blood pressure to fall suddenly.

If your blood pressure falls while you are sleeping, your heart may start beating faster to push blood to your body. This increase happens automatically, and because of the heavy heart-pounding, you are likely to be woken up.

low blood pressure heart racing

Other Health Conditions

Some other health conditions can lead you to wake up with a pounding heart. Conditions like a fever, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, anemia all could be possible causes. Being dehydrated before going to bed could also be a factor that contributes to your fast heart rate.

Let's face it...

There are indeed many health conditions that can cause you to wake up with rapid heart rates and other symptoms. Knowing what is causing it is often tough to do. However, there are many solutions that you can try that may help you in overcoming this issue.

6 Ways To Stop Waking Up With A Racing Heart

wake up feeling refreshed

As I've mentioned many times and I can't stress it enough; if you feel chest pain or discomfort, faint, have terrible shortness of breath seek immediate help. If you don't feel any of the above but still feel uncomfortable waking up with a throbbing heart, then these lifestyle changes can be beneficial!

1

Change Your Eating Habits​​​​​

One great solution is to change your eating habits and avoiding certain foods that could trigger a rise in heart rate. Foods that contain caffeine can significantly increase your heart rate. Typical foods that contain caffeine are coffee, energy drinks, and chocolates.

Other foods that you should avoid are foods that contain monosodium glutamate(MSG) and Tyramine. So avoid things like Chinese takeout, aged cheese, cured meats and alcoholic beverages.(3)

2

Reduce Stress

Trying to reduce stress is often very hard to do as your stressors might be things you can't control. The loss of a relative or a traumatic situation that you keep worrying about can cause stress. In cases where you are overly stressed, you should try practicing deep breathing routines, yoga, or talk to someone about your situation!

3

Research Your Medication

As mentioned earlier, some drugs contain ingredients that can affect your heart rate. It is vital that you confirm the side effects and components that are in a particular drug you are taking. Without knowing all about your medications, you run the risks of ending up with more severe health conditions.

If you feel that your heart racing when you wake up has something to do with your medication, consult your doctor immediately.

4

Get enough rest and sleep

While worrying about waking up with a pounding heart, you are depriving yourself of sleep. Sleep is important in sustaining a healthy body. Moreover, any lack of it can cause your body to react in ways that are often hard to explain.

The recommendation is that you try to sleep at least 8 hours daily, preferably between 8 PM and 6 AM. To allow your body adequate rest, you need to sleep as it helps in normalizing your hormones and heart rate.

5

Exercise regularly

Excercise is crucial to being healthy. Doing exercises at the right time of day is also very important. Furthermore, exercising late at night and being dehydrated can often cause you to end up with a racing heart.

Taking supplements to boost your performance while exercising may also cause your heart to race. So you should be mindful of your supplements and ensure that you are properly hydrated when you exercise!

6

Consult Your Doctor

The last point is to consult your doctor if all else fails. Your doctor is always the best person to contact when in doubt. Trying to self-diagnose yourself is often more harmful than helpful. Always seek sound medical advise before altering any part of your life.

This condition may be harmless! However, in the off chance that there is an underlying medical condition, then you would benefit significantly from your doctor doing proper tests.

The earlier you verify the cause of the problem the better you will feel. You may also immediately stop waking up heart racing.

To Sum It Up!

As terrifying as it is to have this problem, it can be treated and fixed. The tips listed above are what others have done to eliminate or reduce their symptoms. So do not hesitate to get treatment or have your doctor diagnose the cause. Try not to panic when it happens and deeply breathe until it subsides. Another important point is to stay hydrated, exercise frequently and try to normalize your sleep patterns and timing.

What has been your experience? Leave a comment below!

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