Sleeping Heart Rate: How Sleep Affects Your Heart Rate

Fact Checked Medically reviewed by Tanja Premru-Sršen


Your heart rate is one of the most important biomarkers in the body, and it can often be a great indicator of your overall health.

It increases when you’re exercising and doing physical activities. Emotions such as fear, anger, and shock can also raise your heart rate and even blood pressure

During these times, you might reach your maximum heart rate—the rate at which your heart beats when you are under the most stress or exertion. This marker is one of the most critical determinants of your aerobic capacity, which is how much oxygen your body can consume when it is most in need.

However, your heart rate while sleeping can be just as important.

Resting Heart Rate vs. Sleeping Heart Rate and Why They Matter

The resting heart rate (RHR) is vital to one’s health. It represents the effort required by your heart muscles to maintain blood supply and a steady heartbeat.

Thus, a lower resting heart rate indicates that your heart, heart muscles, and other circulatory mechanisms are in good shape.

On the other hand, your sleeping heart rate is the number of heartbeats per minute at a relatively passive time, such as when you’re in deep sleep.

As you enter light sleep within five minutes of falling asleep, your heart rate gradually slows down to its resting rate.

As you go into deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, your blood pressure drops, and your heart rate slows to its sleeping heart rate.

A resting heart rate between 40 and 60 beats per minute during sleep is considered average for adults.Generally, normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 mph to 100 mph per minute.

Your sleeping heart rate may even reach the low 40s, depending on how healthy you are and how much exercise you get.

Low and Slow Heart Rate: How Low is Too Low?

A low sleeping heart rate is expected and does not cause a problem for most people. However, a heart rate that is less than 60 beats per minute while awake and active can indicate a condition known as bradycardia.

Some of the causes of bradycardia include a malfunction in the heart’s natural pacemaker, atrioventricular block, advanced age, and underlying health conditions.

While fit and healthy young people and trained athletes can have heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute without symptoms, bradycardia can cause symptoms in other people. It can significantly worsen as people get older.

Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Weakness

High and Fast Heart Rate: How high is too high?

If you have a high resting heart rate, you might have a medical condition called tachycardia. This is a condition wherein the heart rate usually goes above 100 beats per minute.

Tachycardia is typically caused by an interruption in the normal electrical impulses that control the heart’s pumping action.

Other factors that may cause tachycardia are:

  • Congenital irregularities of the heart such as coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, heart failure, heart muscle disease, tumors, or infections
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine
  • Using cocaine or other recreational drugs
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Fatigue
  • Severe bleeding
  • Physical and mental stress
  • Previous heart surgery

Tachycardia can cause serious cardiac complications. In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure.

Symptoms of tachycardia include:

  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Pounding pulse
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

What Affects Sleeping Heart Rate?

Your sleeping heart rate depends on your general well-being and lifestyle.

Some of the factors that can negatively affect your sleeping heart rate are the following:

  • Pre-existing heart disease
  • Unbalanced hormones
  • Obesity and increased body weight
  • Low fitness levels
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Side effects or reactions to some medications
  • Effects of changing medications
  • Congenital irregularities of the heart
  • Physical stress
  • Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or other stimulants
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Previous heart surgery

How to Check Your Sleeping Heart Rate

An electrocardiogram (ECG) reading is the best way to determine your resting heart rate. However, most wearable devices now include heart rate monitors with acceptable levels of precision.

To determine your resting heart rate, first ensure that you are completely still. One of the best times to take this measurement is after waking up from a restful night’s sleep.

For more accurate results, perform a test before your first bite or cup of coffee, and even before you get out of bed.

You can also check your sleeping heart rate manually by following these steps:

  1. Find your pulse using the tips of your fingers. You can locate your pulse on the inside of your wrist or the side of your throat.
  2. To get a more accurate reading, lightly press on the blood vessels with your index and middle fingers.
  3. Count the number of beats that occur within ten seconds using a timer and multiply that by 6 to get your resting heart rate in beats per minute.

How to Improve Sleeping Heart Rate?

Adopting a more fitness-oriented lifestyle and losing some weight are two of the most effective ways to control your sleeping heart rate.

Your sleeping heart rate increases with body weight. In fact, obese people have significantly higher resting heart rates than the rest of the population. Therefore, it is important to lose a little fat to maintain a healthy body.

It may also be best to include a healthy cardiovascular workout in your lifestyle. Several studies show that poor physical health leads to irregular heart rate.

Getting enough sleep is also critical for heart health. Both your heart rate and blood pressure decrease while you sleep. Most adults require at least seven hours of sleep per night to allow their bodies to rest and repair.

If you have a chronically elevated heart rate, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider. Your doctor will first inquire about your typical activities before performing a physical examination.

When your doctor determines that you may require treatment, they will try to rule out medications or other pre-existing conditions as potential causes. Changing medications or employing similar strategies can sometimes solve the problem.


Monitoring your heart rate is important to prevent the development of more severe health conditions. And the key to maintaining a normal heart rate is to keep an active and healthy lifestyle.

If you are concerned about heart rate irregularities, see your doctor to help you figure out what’s causing it.