Home / Blog February 13, 2024

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7 Reasons Your Heart Is Racing When You Wake Up

In this blog, we discuss the most common factors that could be behind your experience of heart palpitations when you wake up. We also offer tips on dealing with this and knowing when it is time to see a doctor.

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Nightmares, anxiety, and sleep disorders are common causes of heart palpitations.

It helps to create a calming nighttime routine that includes ways to unwind before bed.

If symptoms like chest pain accompany the morning heart palpitations, see a doctor. 

Did you know?
In ancient civilizations, people would often wake up with the sunrise and go to bed shortly after sunset, aligning their sleep cycles with the day-night cycle.

Waking up with a pounding heart can be a disconcerting experience, especially following a seemingly restful night’s sleep. There are many possible reasons behind this feeling, including a blend of psychological and biological factors. So, let’s dive in and see what your body is trying to tell you if your heart is racing when you wake up

Why Do I Wake Up With a Pounding Heart?

Here are some potential reasons for morning heart palpitations:

1. Nightmares or Night Terrors: Intense, frightening dreams or night terrors trigger a sudden increase in heart rate upon waking. These episodes can leave you feeling anxious and disoriented.

2. Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is characterized by brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. When breathing resumes, it can lead to a sudden awakening with an increased heart rate as the body responds to the lack of oxygen.

3. Stress and Anxiety: Elevated stress levels or underlying anxiety can manifest during sleep, causing the body to react with a fight-or-flight response. This can result in waking up with a pounding heart.

4. Night Sweats: Overheating during the night, often accompanied by night sweats, can prompt the body to wake up suddenly, contributing to an increased heart rate.

5. Caffeine or Medication: Consumption of caffeine or certain medications, especially close to bedtime, can interfere with sleep and contribute to waking up with a rapid heartbeat.

6. Hormonal Changes: Hormone fluctuations, occurring during, for example, menstruation or menopause, can impact sleep and lead to episodes of waking up with a pounding heart.

7. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, like thyroid disorders, heart conditions, or respiratory issues, can contribute to nocturnal panic attacks.

Now that we’ve looked at the common culprits behind morning heart palpitations, let’s see what you can do to avoid this feeling.

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How To Stop Waking Up With A Racing Heart

If you're consistently waking up with a racing heart, addressing the underlying causes and making lifestyle adjustments is important. Here are some tips that may help you stop waking up with a racing heart:

1. Evaluate Your Sleep Environment: Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that support good sleep posture.

2. Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to regulate your body’s internal clock. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

3. Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime, like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. Consider activities like reading a calming book to unwind before bedtime.

4. Limit Stimulants: Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. If you like a cup of coffee during the day, consider having one before 3 pm as caffeine could take over five hours to leave your system.

5. Avoid Heavy Meals Before Bed: Refrain from consuming large or heavy meals close to bedtime, as this can lead to indigestion and disrupt sleep.

6. Hydrate Moderately: Stay hydrated but avoid excessive fluid intake right before bedtime to prevent disturbances like needing the bathroom during the night.

7. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, but try to complete intense workouts several hours before bedtime

8. Manage Stress And Anxiety: Identify and manage sources of stress in your life through techniques like stress-reducing activities, counseling, or mindfulness practices. Also, consider using natural sleep aids. Our Cotton Napper is a chunky-knit weighted blanket that feels like a gentle hug, reducing feelings of anxiety and naturally promoting calmer nights

9. Limit Screen Time: Reduce exposure to screens (phones, tablets, computers, and TV) at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin production.

10. Track and Identify Triggers: Keep a sleep journal to track patterns and identify potential triggers for your racing heart. This can help you and your healthcare provider pinpoint specific factors contributing to the issue.

It is important to take a trial-and-error approach to these tips. What works for one person may not necessarily work for somebody else. And if you find yourself still waking up with a racing heart, seek immediate medical attention.

In the next section, we discuss other symptoms you need to look out for to share with your doctor during the hospital visit.

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When To See A Doctor

Here are some situations in which you should contact a doctor about waking up with a pounding heart:

1. Frequent Occurrence: If you consistently wake up with a pounding heart, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. Frequent episodes could indicate an underlying issue that needs evaluation.

2. Severe Symptoms: If the pounding heart is accompanied by other severe symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting, seek immediate medical attention. These could be signs of a more serious cardiovascular or respiratory problem.

3. New Onset: If this is a new symptom for you, you should contact a doctor. Changes in your health, especially related to your heart, should be investigated to rule out any potential issues.

4. Risk Factors: If you have existing risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as a family history of heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity, it's important to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare provider.

5. Medication Side Effects: If you take any medications and suspect that the pounding heart may be a side effect, consult your doctor. They may need to adjust your medication or explore alternative options.

6. Sleep-related Issues: Conditions like sleep apnea or other sleep disorders can contribute to symptoms like waking up with a pounding heart. Discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional who can explore potential sleep-related causes.

7. Stress and Anxiety: Persistent stress or anxiety can contribute to heart palpitations. If you suspect that stress or anxiety is a contributing factor, consider consulting with a healthcare provider or mental health professional for guidance.

Remember, it's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your heart health. If you are unsure or concerned about waking up with a pounding heart, seeing a healthcare professional is recommended, as they can diagnose any underlying conditions.

In the next, and last, section of this blog, we discuss how heart palpitations are diagnosed so that you may know what to expect if you visit your doctor’s office.

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How Are Heart Palpitations Diagnosed?

Diagnosing heart palpitations involves a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms. The diagnostic process may include:

1. Medical History and Physical Examination: The healthcare provider will gather information about your overall health, medical history, lifestyle, and any medications you may be taking. A physical examination will be conducted to check for signs of underlying conditions.

2. Symptom Description: Providing a detailed description of your palpitations, including when they occur, their duration, and any associated factors, helps the healthcare provider understand the nature of the symptoms.

3. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This is a standard test that records the electrical activity of the heart. An ECG can help identify irregular heart rhythms or patterns that may be contributing to palpitations.

4. Holter Monitor: For palpitations that occur intermittently, a Holter monitor may be recommended. This portable device records your heart's electrical activity over a 24- to 48-hour period, capturing any irregularities that may not be evident during a brief office visit

5. Event Monitor: Similar to a Holter monitor, an event monitor is worn for a more extended period, typically for several weeks. You can activate it when the palpitations begin, allowing for the recording of specific episodes.

6. Blood Tests: Blood tests may be conducted to check for underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders or hormonal imbalances, that could contribute to palpitations.

7. Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create a detailed picture of the heart's structure and function. It can help identify any abnormalities in the heart valves or chambers.

8. Stress Test: In some cases, a stress test may be performed to evaluate how the heart responds to physical exertion. This can help detect abnormal heart rhythms that may be triggered by exercise.

9. Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray is often ordered to rule out any lung or heart conditions that could be associated with palpitations.

Your doctor’s specific diagnostic approach will depend on your circumstances. Either way, it is important that you attend a checkup following consistent or new symptoms related to morning heart palpitations. This way, you can ensure that your sleep quality is not compromised by any underlying issues you are unaware of.


Waking up with a pounding heart can be a distressing experience, with various potential causes ranging from nightmares and sleep apnea to stress, anxiety, and underlying medical conditions. For relief, consider prioritizing activities that promote heart health such as managing stress and anxiety levels and adopting healthy sleep habits. It also helps to know some common symptoms of morning heart palpitations to ensure that you can keep track of potential triggers. While it is common for this to happen once in a while, if you experience persistent nocturnal palpitations, seek immediate medical attention.