You go through the day feeling fine, but when nighttime rolls around and you lie down to sleep, your heart starts beating rapidly.

If this sounds like you, then you may be relieved to know that nighttime heart palpitations (the feeling that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or racing) are common and usually don’t signal a major health problem. If you don’t think any of their common causes apply to you, it may be best to talk to your doctor.

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What Causes Heart Palpitations?

Most people have heart palpitations from time to time. Some common causes include:

  • Hormones: Fluctuating hormones can speed up your heart rate during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • Stress: Anxiety, depression, and stress can affect your heart rate.
  • Alcohol or caffeine: Having either of these stimulants close to bedtime can cause your heart to race and make it difficult for you to sleep.
  • Bedtime snacks: What you eat also affects your heart. Sugary foods, chocolate, and super salty foods or those with monosodium glutamate (MSG) can make it feel like your heart is racing.
  • Medicines: Certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including those taken for allergies, may be the culprit.

How Can I Keep My Heart From Racing at Night?

Consider if any of these common causes of nighttime heart palpitations could be affecting you and try to address the issues.

If you think your eating habits may be responsible, watch what you eat and drink late in the day and early evening and opt for healthier snacks or herbal tea.

If stress is the problem, add some relaxation techniques to your bedtime routine. Try deep breathing, meditation, stretching, journaling, or reading. Regular exercise also can help you maintain a normal heart rate.

When Is a Racing Heart Serious?

Occasional heart palpitations or changes in heart rate shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But if they’re happening frequently, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor to determine if there is an underlying medical problem. Thyroid issues, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure all can cause your heart to race.

If you experience dizziness, chest pain, fainting, or shortness of breath, seek medical help immediately. These could be signs of a far more serious problem.

To schedule an appointment with a heart specialist, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-876-2484.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.