Health Care

What Causes Heart Palpitations at Night?

Older woman laying in bed using an iPad.

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If you’ve ever felt your heart fluttering, racing, pounding or skipping beats, you’ve experienced heart palpitations. While they’re very common and usually harmless, the feeling can shock you from your rest and relaxation — especially when your heart palpitations happen at nighttime.

If heart palpitations have been a concern for you when you’re trying to settle down, we’re here to put your mind at ease with valuable information about what causes them and why they happen at night.

What Causes Heart Palpitations?

Heart palpitations occur when the heart beats out of rhythm or beats too soon. Nearly everyone has a heart palpitation from time to time. But not everyone feels them.

Some people get heart palpitations when they lay down because of their sleeping position. Sleeping hunched over on your side can increase pressure inside your body, which can cause palpitations. Other common causes of heart palpitations include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Caffeine
  • Dehydration
  • Drugs and medications
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Fever
  • High sodium, sugar and/or fat intake
  • Hormonal changes
  • Obesity

While less common, heart palpitations can result from an underlying health condition or disorder, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart’s muscles)
  • Thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism)
  • Structural problems in the heart (valve disease)

Why Do Heart Palpitations Happen at Night?

Heart palpitations can happen anytime, including at night or in the daytime. They can feel alarming, but they aren’t typically due to an underlying health condition. Many people have heart palpitations during the day that they feel at night, but don’t notice while they’re attending to their busy days. You’re just more likely to notice heart palpitations when you’re not distracted and everything is quiet. You might feel them when you’re sitting still, resting or lying down.

What Are the Symptoms of Nighttime Heart Palpitations?

When you lay down you may feel:

  • Fluttering: This sensation is sometimes described as a feeling of butterflies or flips in the chest
  • Irregular heart rate: It might feel like your heart is beating out of rhythm, skipping a beat, speeding up and slowing down, or stopping for a second or two
  • Pounding: You might feel like your heart is beating very hard or forcefully or hear it in your ears

Some people feel the palpitations in other parts of their body like their head, neck or throat.

Can Heart Palpitations Be Stopped?

Heart palpitations at night don’t usually require treatment, especially if they only happen every now and then. You may be able to relieve heart palpitations at night yourself. If your heart is racing at night, try the following:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply
  • Change positions
  • Drink a glass of water to rehydrate
  • Focus on something enjoyable and relaxing
  • Get up and walk around

Also, pay attention to your patterns when heart palpitations occur. Take note of what you ate, whether you exercised, if you took any medicine, if you’re stressed and how you felt before and after the palpitations. Identifying triggers may help you stave them off in the future.

When Should You See a Doctor for Heart Palpitations?

Get help right away if you have heart palpitations coupled with difficulty breathing or chest pain.

If you’re experiencing frequent heart palpitations at night, consider scheduling an appointment with a doctor. They can conduct a review of your medical history. They might recommend a physical examination and tests, such as:

  • EKG
  • Exercise stress test, if there’s accompanying chest pain
  • Holter monitor, to monitor your heart’s activity over a period of time if you might have an irregular heartbeat
  • Lab work
  • Ultrasound of your heart

If your palpitations are from an underlying condition, your provider will treat the condition. Treatments will vary based on what you have and to what extent.

We Won’t Miss a Beat

At AdventHealth Heart and Vascular Care, we understand that your heart fuels every breath. And we won’t miss a beat when it comes to finding the root cause behind your symptoms and coming up with a treatment plan that attends to the whole you — your body, mind and spirit.

Learn more about how we can help care for your heart here.

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