Normal Sleeping Heart Rates

Posted by Darian Dozier on Nov 13, 2023 2:42:00 PM

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Your heart rate can change throughout the day based on your level of activity, emotions, stress levels, etc. Stress and exercise increase your heart rate, while relaxing and sleeping can lower it. A normal heart rate while you're sleeping anywhere between 40-50 bpm. Now, if you're familiar with normal heart rates, you may think that's incredibly slow, or what's medically known as bradycardia. But your body is under less metabolic demand when you're sleeping, therefore, you're heart doesn't have to beat as fast. Continue reading to learn more about what is a normal heart rate for different ages, as well as signs that you could have an underlying condition.

Average heart rates

Heart rates can vary during rest, exercise and sleep. Typical heart rates for most adults are between 60-100 bpm at rest. Anything less than 60 is considered bradycardia, and anything greater than 100 is considered tachycardia. Sitting at either one can be a sign of an underlying disorder (unless you're an athlete or a distance runner). Adult males also tend to have lower heart rates.

Resting heart rates naturally decrease with age. One study found that the upper limit for 18-45 year olds was as high as 110, for 45-60 year olds was 100, and for those that were older than 60 it was 95.

During exercise, the CDC recommends aiming for a heart rate that is between 64-76% of your maximum heart rate for moderate-intensity workouts, and 77%-93% for high-intensity workouts. You can estimate this by subtracting your age from the number 220, then taking the percentage of that number. There are additional factors that need to be considered, so please consult with your physician before starting any new regiment.

Children will have much higher rates than adults as their metabolic activity is higher. So, it is normal for infants to be as high as 164 bpm, and slowly decline as they age into their teen years. These numbers drop in their sleep, just like adults.  

How heart rate changes during sleep 

For most individuals, the heart rate is slower during sleep than when a person is awake. However, the heart also varies from sleeping stage to sleeping stage. In the first stage of sleep, which is light sleep, the heart rate begins to slow down. During deep sleep, the heart rate is at its slowest. In rapid eye movement (REM), the heart rate may be the same as the awake stage.

Most people have a relaxed heart rate during non-REM (NREM) sleep. This can protect the body against cardiovascular events. However, during REM, your body and brain are in higher levels of activity, which makes sense because this is the stage in which you are dreaming. Therefore, you may be doing something very exciting or active in your dream which can elevate your heart rate.

This may be the reason that individuals who are already susceptible to cardiovascular events experience heart attacks and other events in the early hours of the morning because this is when REM sleep typically occurs

Sleep problems can have a negative impact on your heart and cardiovascular health, because your heart doesn't have a chance to slow down, and your blood pressure doesn't have a chance to fall. Disorders like sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), or shift work disorder all are linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease because of this reason.  

What affects sleeping heart rates

There are many factors that can impact one's sleeping heart rate. If you have a higher sleeping heart rate, then this could mean a longer sleep latency, or longer time to fall asleep. In addition, high heart rates could mean worse sleep quality. Individuals who have a higher heart rate often have stress and anxiety, poor sleep hygiene, are pregnant, or other factors.

Those who struggle with stress and anxiety have higher heart rate and blood pressure throughout the day that can continue into the night. This can make it harder for these individuals to fall and stay asleep. Therefore, the lack of sleep can worsen stress and anxiety throughout the day, which just continues to increase one's heart rate and blood pressure.

Poor sleep hygiene behaviors, such as working out too close to bed time, can lead to an increased heart rate. Watching intense movies or TV can have a similar effect on your heart rate. And last, but not least, experiencing nightmares throughout the night can increase your heart rate, and even cause you to wake up with a pounding or racing heart.

Growing babies can lead to faster heart rates as the body tries to supply oxygen to two bodies. Regular exercise may help lower resting heart rate and boost heart health during pregnancy. 

Other factors that may lead to increased heart rate include being sick, taking certain medications, and caffeine. 

Low heart rates may be a sign of a healthy heart. In athletes, a low heart rate is normally not a cause for concern. However, in older adults, it may be a sign of a conduction issue, where the heart is not receiving the signals that it needs to continue beating like it's supposed to. 

Other conditions can cause the heart to beat slowly including heart disease, rheumatic fever, Lyme disease, and sleep apnea. Certain substances and medications can lower a heart rate, as well as underlying conditions like anorexia, hypothyroidism, and sleep apnea.  

Monitoring your heart rate and seeking help

For the most part, a heart rate variation is temporary and non-life threatening. However, there are times when it is dangerous. If an individual lives a pretty sedentary life, but has a really low heart rate, then that could be a sign of an underlying disorder. Brief spikes during physical activity or stress are completely normal. However, persistently elevated heart rates could be a sign of something else. Additionally, symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations are all signs of an abnormal heart rate that may need to be monitored or checked out.

You can use a variety of tools to measure your heart rate. However, probably the easiest way to monitor your heart rate is with a fitness watch. They consistently monitor your heart rate throughout the day, and can provide you with data trends that you can show your physician. Some are even sophisticated enough to show abnormal heart rhythms. If you don't want to purchase anything, you can manually do it by finding your pulse, counting the number of beats for 30 seconds, and then multiplying that number by two.

If your heart rate is consistent abnormal, then getting better sleep, managing your stress and anxiety, exercising regularly, avoiding nicotine/caffeine, and eating a healthy diet are ways to reduce the variation.

It is time to talk to your doctor if you have concerns that your heart rate is consistently abnormal. They can assess you to see if there is an underlying condition or behavior that is leading to your abnormal readings. .

If you are struggling with getting enough sleep due to concerns about your heart, then please click the orange button to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health professionals. 

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