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Why Does My Heart Race at Night?

You’ve had a long and stressful day, and now you’re looking forward to getting some sleep. Unfortunately, your heart has different plans as it races and bumps along, preventing you from falling asleep or waking you throughout the night.

At Heart Rhythm Associates, experienced cardiologist Van H. De Bruyn, MD, understands the many causes of a heart racing at night, and we outline some of them here.

Defining the racing

When we refer to a “racing” heart, we’re referring to just one of the possible sensations that can occur with heart palpitations — with an emphasis on sensation. The hallmark of a heart palpitation is an awareness of the irregular or strange heartbeat, which has been described as:

Perhaps you have your own word for the sensation you’re feeling at night, but it likely bears some resemblance to one of the sensations we listed above.

Why at night?

If you’re experiencing heart racing at night, there are several reasons why you may be subject to this timing. First, there’s a good possibility that the problem is with you throughout the day, but you’re only more aware of it at night when the world around you quiets down.

Another possibility is that if you sleep on your left side, your heart is pressed up against your chest wall, which can amplify the sensation as it reverberates through your body.

Rounding out the list of primary culprits is taking a stimulant too close to bedtime.

Potential causes of your heart palpitations

Now that we have a better understanding about what heart palpitations are and why they seem to occur more at night, let’s take a look at some of the potential causes. In most cases, heart palpitations on their own aren’t usually serious and are often caused by:

In more serious cases, you may have a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia) such as atrial fibrillation, which affects approximately 2.7 million people in the United States. With this condition, the two upper chambers of your heart — your atria — beat irregularly, upsetting the rhythm of your heart. 

Atrial fibrillation can lead to serious complications like blood clots, so we need to monitor the condition closely.

In order to figure out what’s making your heart race at night, we urge you to come in for a full evaluation, even if it’s just for your peace of mind. For example, if we find that stress or anxiety is behind nighttime racing, you can take action through relaxation exercises.

If we do find an electrical or structural problem in your heart, that diagnosis is key in helping us move forward and find you the best treatment options for your racing heart.

To figure out what’s causing your heart to race at night, please contact our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, to set up an appointment. We also offer telehealth visits.

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