A rapid heart rate in the middle of the night is something you SHOULD be worried about, rather than trying to ignore it and brush it off as just anxiety or your imagination.

Your heart should not just suddenly start beating rapidly in the middle of the night without SOME kind of explanation. The smart thing to do is find out why this is happening.

Experiencing a rapid heart rate in the middle of the night is frightening to some people, but a lot of these individuals won’t make an appointment with a cardiologist, fearing that they’ll get very bad news.

Truth is, if you have a fast heart rate in the middle of the night, the cause can range from minor to serious, says Dr. Pam Marcovitz, MD, medical director of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center, at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Dr. Marcovitz says that one of the most common causes of this experience is sinus tachycardia.

This means a “fast, normal rhythm.” She says that it “does not need to be treated,” and that it “does not regularly occur.”

It’s important to document when these episodes occur so you can see objectively how often, or how infrequently, you experience what seems to be this fast, normal rhythm.

Also make a note of whether it occurred while you were asleep and awakened you (or if it seemed that way, at least), or if it began occurring after you came out of your sleep for no apparent reason and found yourself just lying there, worrying about life’s curve balls.

Anxiety will speed up the heart, and if this happens during the day while you’re fretting about, you usually won’t notice it or give it a second thought if you do notice it.


Atrial fibrillation is another potential cause for a rapid pulse in the middle of the night, says Dr. Marcovitz.

This condition can be serious. It can lead to blood clots in the heart, plus cause a person to become faint or even pass out.

In A-fib, the pulse is not steady, as in a steady 120 beats per minute. It jumps all over the place. A heart rate monitor, while a person is in A-fib, will show this.

If your documentation reveals a more-than-occasional episode of middle of the night rapid heartbeat, especially if it’s not associated with awakening from a bad dream or fidgeting restlessly from anxiety, you should see a cardiologist, says Dr. Marcovitz.

If you think these episodes might be panic attacks, it’s still wise to see a doctor to hopefully rule in a panic attack and rule out a serious heart problem.

Dr. Marcovitz says that other conditions could cause your pulse to speed up in the middle of the night: sleep apnea and high blood pressure, “potential causes for which a person should be evaluated.”

dr. marcovitz

Dr. Marcovitz has 40+ years of experience in helping people improve their heart health.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


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