How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Rate
- By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Even if you dont wear a smartwatch or fitness band to track your heart rate, you can often sense your pulse fluctuating throughout the day. During your waking hours, the number of heartbeats per minute when youre just sitting quietly is known as your resting heart rate. In most adults, resting heart rates range between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Once you stand up and move around, your heart rate goes up. And exercise boosts it further still. Even intense emotions fear, anger, or surprise can cause your heart rate to spike. But what happens when you lie down to sleep? The answer differs depending on the phase of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep.
When Should Hrv Be Measured
Harvard Health recommends checking your HRV in the morning after waking up. To do so, they suggest buying a chest strap heart monitor and using an app to analyze your data.
Try to measure HRV while youre at rest, not after exercising or any other activity that can significantly affect your baseline HRV reading. Do this a few times a week and note the results so you can track any changes.
Check Your Resting Heart Rate Early And Often
Dr. Wasfy recommends checking your resting heart rate a few times per week and at different times of the day. Keep in mind that the number can be influenced by many factors, including stress and anxiety, circulating hormones, and medications such as certain antidepressants and some blood pressure drugs.
Talk with your doctor if your resting heart rate is regularly on the high end. There are ways to lower it and keep it within its proper range. One example is keeping your cholesterol levels in check. High levels restrict blood flow through the arteries and damage blood vessels, which can make your heart beat faster than normal to move blood through the body.
Another reliable way to lower your resting heart rate is to exercise. “Even small amounts of exercise can make a change,” says Dr. Wasfy. However, the intensity of the exercise is key. One study that involved 55-year-old adults found that just one hour per week of high-intensity aerobic training lowered RHR more efficiently than a low-intensity effort .
Tips for measuring your resting heart rate
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How Does Your Heart Rate Change While You Sleep
During sleep, the stimulation of your nervous system is reduced and most of your body processes slow down, says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, associate physician with the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital.
Within about five minutes after you drift off to sleep, your heart rate gradually slows to its resting rate as you enter whats known as light sleep. Your body temperature drops and your muscles relax. People typically spend about half the night in light sleep. But during the next phase, deep sleep, your blood pressure falls and your heart rate slows to about 20% to 30% below your resting heart rate.
When you dream, you enter the sleep phase known as REM . Your heart rate can vary quite a bit during REM sleep because it reflects the activity level occurring in your dream. If your dream is scary or involves activity such as running, then your heart rate rises as if you were awake, says Dr. Epstein.
What Is Resting Heart Rate
Heart rate is defined as the number of contractions of the heart, expressed in beats per minute . Heart rate can be measured during activity , but is most often clinically assessed at rest in the absence of extraneous stress and other factors.
Resting heart rate is utilized to evaluate an individuals cardiovascular health and function. While most healthy adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 80 bpm, factors such as fitness level, body composition, room temperature, body position, stress, and use of certain medications can affect heart rate.
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Your Sleeping Heart Rate
Your sleeping heart rate is simply the rate at which your heart beats while you sleep. If you dont have a device that can track your nocturnal heart rate, this can sometimes be difficult to calculate.
Typically, your heart rate drops by about 20% to 30% of your normal resting heart rate while you sleep. So, if your resting heart rate is 80, you can expect your sleeping rate to be between 56 and 64.
However, just as during the day your heart rate fluctuates, your sleeping heart rate changes during the night too. It is during deep sleep that you can expect your heart rate to reach this level, but there are other stages of sleep where youll have a different heart rate:
- Light sleep: During light sleep, your heart rate will not be as low as during deep sleep, studies show.
- REM sleep: During rapid eye movement sleep, you experience a high heart rate variability, and studies show that it can change even more than when you are awake. Thats because REM is when youre dreaming, and the qualities of your dreams affect your heart rate.
So, all sleep is not created equal. There are a lot of changes going on, and these affect your heart rate too.
What Is A Target Heart Rate
According to the AHA , your target heart rate during moderate-intensity activities is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Vigorous physical activity should result in about 70 to 85 percent of your maximum.
So for 35-year-olds, a goal target heart rate is between 93 and 157 bpm .
The table below shows the target heart rate range and average maximum heart rate for different ages, based on information from the AHA.
- being an older adult
- problems with the conduction system of the heart
Borderline or occasional bradycardia may not need treatment. But prolonged bradycardia, or bradycardia thats not treated, can become more serious.
Certain underlying conditions are typically the true decider of what a dangerous heart rate is. If youre already living with heart disease, heart failure, or a history of heart disease and notice a fluctuation in your heart rate, you should go to the doctor as soon as you can, as it could be a sign of a serious complication.
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When To See A Doctor
If a higher heart rate is a result of being under stress or consuming a lot of alcohol or caffeine, thats not typically a cause for alarm. However, these situations still warrant a discussion with your clinician, as they can discuss with you how to best address any necessary lifestyle changes.
Meanwhile, adults without an acute condition that might cause an elevated heart rate may also want to contact their doctor if their resting heart rate remains above 100 beats per minute for a few days, says Dr. Tilahun.
If the heart rate is persistently elevated for more than a few days and there is absence of a clear thing that can explain it, that should be a time to talk to your doctor, he says.
Keys To Getting An Accurate Result
Resting heart rate is determined with a pulse measurement when you are relaxed and at rest. Do not take resting heart rate after:
- Active exercise
Some common causes of low heart rates include the following:
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Heart Rate Variability Reflects Your Nervous System
HRV is linked to your autonomic nervous system and the balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches. By balancing the two forces, the ANS helps you respond to daily stressors and regulate some of your bodys most important systems, including heart rate, respiration, and digestion.
HRV is the most effective way of estimating your ANS balance, as it directly impacts your hearts activity.
Independently, your heart beats to its own rhythm thanks to a built-in pacemaker called the sinoatrial node. Your SA keeps your heart firing at around 100 beats per minute.
However, your ANS greatly influences how your heart beats. All the cells within your hearts pacemaker have direct phone lines from both sides of your ANS. They give input, beat to beat, on a cellular level to your heart:
- Your rest-and-digest tells your heart to slow down, making room for variability between beats
- Your fight-or-flight system tells your heart to speed up, limiting space for variability
These two systems can be silent, active, or shouting over each other at any given time. Thats a lot of conversation, and it leads to a lot of variation.
As a rule of thumb:
- Higher HRV is associated with rest-and-digest, general fitness, and good recovery
- Lower HRV is associated with fight-or-flight, stress, or illness
Causes Of Low Heart Rate Problems
The most common cause of a low heart rate is a malfunction in the hearts sinus node, its natural pacemaker. This area sends our electrical signals telling the top and bottom heart chambers the timing of when to pump blood through the body.
Other causes of low heart rate include an atrioventricular block, age, and certain conditions such as inflammation of the heart muscle, low thyroid function, electrolyte imbalance, obstructive sleep apnea, or heart attack due to coronary artery disease.
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Tachycardia: How High Is Too High
“A resting heart rate that is frequently over 110 or occasionally over 140 can lead to heart damage or heart failure and may need to be treated,” Dr. Santucci says. According to the American Heart Association, the medical term for a heart rate above 100 is tachycardia. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath.
Although the range of normal for a resting and sleeping heart rate is wide, the Mayo Clinic says to let your doctor know if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100, especially if you have any symptoms of tachycardia.
Diagnosing The Underlying Cause
Your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to help diagnose your condition, including:
- Holter or event monitor. This is a smaller, portable EKG machine you wear for a set amount of time to help your doctor monitor your electrocardiographic signals.
- Electrocardiogram. Also referred to as an ECG or EKG, this diagnostic tool uses small electrodes to record the electrical activity of your heart. Your doctor can use the information collected to determine if heart abnormalities are contributing to your condition.
- Stress test. Sometimes called a treadmill test or excercise test, this can help diagnose people whose symptoms may be exercise related.
- A tilt-table test. This measures how your blood pressure and heart rate respond when you go from lying down to standing up. People dealing with fainting spells are usually candidates for a tilt-table test.
- Imaging tests. Imaging can be used to assess if there are any structural abnormalities in your heart that may be contributing to your condition. Possible imaging tests can include echocardiogram, CT scan, and MRI scan.
- Electrophysiologictesting. Done under local anesthesia, this procedure involves temporary electrode catheters being threaded through veins or arteries into the heart to record the hearts electrical signals.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to develop a plan to treat and manage your condition.
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How To Check Your Pulse And Heart Rate
Exercise is an important part of cancer prevention. You need 150minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorousexercise each week to help lower your cancer risk. Your heart rate canhelp you determine if the exercise youre doing is moderate orvigorous.
If youre working at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, then thatexercise is considered moderate. If youre working at 70 to 85% ofyour heart rate then its vigorous exercise.
How Do I Check My Pulse
You can check your heart rate by taking your pulse and counting how many times your heart beats in 1 minute .
Your heart rate varies depending on what you’re doing for example, it will be slower if you’re sleeping and faster if you’re exercising.
To get your resting heart rate, you need to have been sitting still before checking your pulse.
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What Is A Pulse At Rest
Heart rate is a measure of heart function and health. While the average resting heart rate for healthy individuals is between 60 and 80 bpm, obesity, medicines, anxiety, and other circumstances can influence your heart rate. Physical fitness levels are also important. In fact, a professional athletes resting heart rate may be significantly lower than normal, ranging from 40 to 70 beats per minute .
Because their heart muscle is healthy and robust, regular exercisers hearts have to work less to distribute a sufficient quantity of blood throughout the body. For individuals who dont have strong cardiac muscle, their heart has to pump much harder than usual in order to maintain normal blood flow, resulting in a greater than usual heart rate.
New Study Shows A Link Between Sleep Problems And A Higher Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
A recent study shows that healthy sleep patterns are associated with a one-third lower risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. The study was carried out at the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre in the USA and was published in the European Heart Journal on 18 December 2019.
Persons with healthy sleep behaviours such as going to bed on time and sleeping 7 to 8 hours, little or no insomnia, not snoring, and not experiencing frequent drowsiness during the day, had a one-third lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a one-third lower risk of a stroke, as compared to persons who reported none or only one of these healthy sleep behaviours.
Poor sleep has an aggravating effect on persons with a higher genetic risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. Turning this around, one can say that persons with a low genetic risk lose part of their inherent protection if they exhibit poor sleep behaviour.
This again proves the importance of good sleep for your health. Read our sleep tips and try some of them that apply to you.
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The Hill: Too Exhausted For Bed
If your RHR increases right after you fall asleep, this could be a sign of exhaustion. Did you go to sleep on time? If its past your regular bedtime, you may start feeling the effects of increased melatonina hormone that aids sleepand lower blood pressure. This communication from your body serves as a warning of sorts, reminding you to get to bed on time.
If you did go to sleep during your ideal bedtime window, its possible that your heart rate may be increasing at the start of the night for reasons you cant control. For instance, your airways may have relaxed during sleep, causing you to snore, which raises your heart rate.
How To Check Your Heart Rate At Rest
To check your resting heart rate, first ensure that you are at rest. One of the best times to take this measurement is immediately after you wake up from a night of rejuvenating sleep. For best results, you should run a test before your first bite or coffee, and even before you leave the bed.
To measure your sleeping heart rate manually:
- Using the tips of your fingers, locate your pulse. You can find your pulse on the inside of your wrist or the side of your Adams apple
- With your index and middle fingers, lightly press on the blood vessels to get a more precise read
- Using a timer, count the number of beats that occur within 10 seconds and multiply that figure by 6 to get your resting heart rate in beats per minute
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Find Your Ideal Bedtime With Oura
While you may not have had a bedtime since elementary school, the truth is that all of us have an ideal bedtime window. Consistent sleep and wake times is key to getting efficient, restorative sleep every nightand high Sleep Scores on your Oura app.
The reasoning? Going to bed at roughly the same time each night greatly impacts how much restorative deep sleep and rapid-eye movement sleep you get. Plus, your ideal bedtime is associated with your individual circadian rhythm and daily habits. This means there are certain times of the day when your body is ready to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up.
With Oura, you can discover the best bedtime for you and get tips on how to stick to it.
Typical Heart Rates During Exercise
During exercise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends aiming for a target heart rate between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate for moderate-intensity workouts, and 77% to 93% for high-intensity workouts.
You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, the maximum heart rate for a 50-year-old would be estimated to be 170 bpm, and 200 bpm for a 20-year-old. This means that the 20-year-old may want to aim for a heart rate between 128 and 152 bpm during a moderate-intensity workout, or between 154 and 186 bpm for a high-intensity workout.
However, there are additional factors to consider when calculating your target heart rate. It is important to consult with a medical professional to determine any potential risks prior to engaging in vigorous exercise.
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