Heart palpitations are the sensation that your heart is racing, skipping beats, or is beating more strongly than normal. These sensations can be caused by actual changes in your heartbeat or they can simply be a state of high awareness of the beating of your own heart.
Heart palpitations that occur at night are usually not dangerous, although they can be uncomfortable. With a few exceptions, heart palpitations that occur at night are not caused by anything different than what causes those that occur during the day. If your heart palpitations are not linked to a serious underlying illness or arrhythmia, they can often be controlled or stopped.
Should I worry?
In general, heart palpitations are nothing to worry about. Many people experience them on a regular basis, and in healthy, structurally normal hearts they are generally considered to be benign. If you are experiencing heart palpitations for the first time or if you have any concerns regarding the health of your heart you should always consult with your doctor.
People who experience chest or back pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or numbness should seek medical attention immediately, as these may be signs of a heart attack or other serious condition.
What causes heart palpitations at night?
In the majority of cases, people who experience heart palpitations at night do not have significantly different heart rhythms compared to during the day. At night, however, heart palpitations are often more noticeable because there are fewer sounds and sensations to distract from the feeling of your heartbeat.
Heart palpitations at night can be caused by the way in which the sufferer sleeps. People who sleep on their left side or back may inadvertently put pressure on their vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is an important component of the parasympathetic nervous system and is partially responsible for controlling your heart rate. When external pressure is applied to the vagus nerve, it is possible to trigger an errant electrical impulse which travels the length of the nerve. This harmless impulse can cause a temporary awareness of your heartbeat.
Heart palpitations can also be linked to eating large meals before going to bed, drinking caffeine too late in the day, or exercising heavily.
Can they be controlled?
If you tend to exercise or eat late, or drink caffeine late in the day, consider attempting to change those habits first. Many people also find themselves struggling with stress or anxiety brought on by a long day. Consider relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises to help calm yourself down before going to sleep.
If you find that you are unable to take your focus away from your heart palpitations at night, it may be helpful to add some subtle distractions to your bedroom. These could include turning on the radio or television, reading a book or using a white noise machine to draw some of your attention away from your heart and body.
If changing your evening habits does not help and your heart palpitations continue to bother you at night, you may want to learn more about stopping your heart palpitations by reading our comprehensive guide.
As always, if your doctor has assured you that your heart is healthy and that your palpitations are benign, try to remain calm and remind yourself that you are going to be just fine!