When we sleep, our whole body chills out. Our muscles relax, our autonomic functions slow down, and the pathways between the brain and the body take a little break.
But although everything relaxes, it never stops completely. The body goes through healing processes, and the brain consolidates memories and performs various other functions.
So what is a good sleeping heart rate? How low is too low? And what sort of things affect the rate at which our heart beats during the night?
So What Is A Good Sleeping Heart Rate?
Our heart rate changes throughout the night, and no two people will have the same resting heart rate when they sleep. A normal sleeping heart rate range varies from 40 to 100 beats per minute.
Our sleeping heart rate isn’t even the same every night, though! It will change every day, as it can be affected by our level of exercise, temperature, and how hydrated we are. Other factors like medication, our emotional states, and how much stress we’re under can also increase or decrease our heart rates.
For example, if you’re exercising regularly, then your fitness level will mean that your sleeping heart rate may be lower, ranging between 40 to 80 beats per minute. Usually, this is an indication of a healthier heart!
Age can also play a part when it comes to your sleeping heart rate, as can medical conditions. The older you get, the slower your heart rate generally is. Different medical conditions can affect the heart in different ways.
As we sleep, our bodies go through healing processes like muscle repair and cell renewal. Depending on what it’s doing at the time, your heart rate could be higher or lower. In short, there’s no specific sleeping heart rate - it varies depending on a variety of factors!
Heart Rates During Sleep Stages
As we go through the various sleep cycles, our heart rate will fluctuate between our normal sleeping heart rate and normal heart rate when we’re awake. It also tends to spike during REM sleep, as it’s the closest we are to waking consciousness!
Stages 1 & 2
Stage 1 usually lasts between 5 to 15 minutes. This is where you’ll find yourself drifting in and out of consciousness. Although you’re on your way to falling asleep, you’re still aware that you’re awake. During this stage, your body starts to relax as you slip into stage 2.
It’s in stage 2 that your breathing and heart rate will begin to slow down. This sleep stage lasts between 10 and 20 minutes and at least 50 % of your sleep time will be spent in stage 2.
Stages 3 & 4
Stages 3 and 4 are when the body goes through its recuperative processes and health-promoting tasks. When someone’s in these stages of sleep, it’s very difficult to wake them up. Their body will be completely relaxed, and the mind-body connection is almost switched off!
In these stages, the heart rate may speed up a little, depending on what the body is busy with. It won’t be drastic, though.
REM sleep is where you begin to dream. Contrary to what most people believe, this is not the same as deep sleep!
When you’re in REM sleep, your body mimics waking world conditions as you dream. Your heart rate increases, breathing rate gets faster, and even blow flow moves a little more quickly.
Depending on what you dream, there may even be noticeable spikes in your heart rate during REM!
What Can Affect Heart Rate While Sleeping?
Your sleeping heart rate can be affected by a number of things, such as:
Anyone can struggle with these things on any given day, based on external stimuli. But sometimes there are other factors in play that could be more serious.
Some common, more dangerous reasons for an elevated heart rate while sleeping are:
This is one of the more common sleep disorders, and it has a direct link to your heart rate while you’re sleeping. Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night.
If you often feel that you’ve had a restless night and you’re unusually tired during the day, these could be indications of sleep apnea. You may also want to check with your partner if you’ve been snoring loudly during the night, especially on those restless nights.
Sleep apnea can be caused by the throat muscles in the neck becoming relaxed during sleep, having a large neck circumference, being obese, or having chronic sinusitis. If you still have your tonsils, they can also bring on bouts of sleep apnea (especially if you have large ones!).
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Central Sleep Apnea, which is when the brain sends incorrect signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is the most common, and happens when the muscles in the throat relax and cause an obstruction.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, which is when an individual has both Central and Obstructive sleep apnea.
If you’re not quite sure whether or not you suffer from this condition, see if you struggle with some of these symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Waking up with a dry or sore throat.
- Snoring loudly (you may need to enlist your partner’s help for this one!).
- Lack of energy throughout the day.
- Feeling as though you missed a night’s sleep.
- Waking up with headaches often.
- Unusual forgetfulness.
- Changes in mood, mostly negative.
- A diminished libido.
- In severe cases, waking up gasping for air or feeling like you’re choking.
- Awakening frequently in the night.
This is a serious and potentially very dangerous condition that you’d need your doctor to have a look at. Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which your heart feels like it’s shaky or irregular.
This is because your heart's rhythm goes out of sync, caused by an abnormality in the heart’s electrical signaling system. When this happens, the upper and lower chambers of the heart beat completely irregularly and cause blood flow to stagnate.
Because blood isn’t pumping like it should, you may find yourself short of breath, with a rapid heartbeat, and sudden fatigue.
These symptoms often lead to “transient episodes”, which are like mini blackouts. This may cause you to wake up more frequently at night, leading to poor sleep quality.
Research has shown that individuals who’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea are at a high risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Sometimes people with AFib have no symptoms, and their condition is only detectable upon physical examination. Other people may exhibit some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Strange fatigue.
- Irregular or fast heartbeat.
- Heart “thumping” in the chest.
- Unusual anxiety.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain or a feeling of pressure around the heart.
- Feeling weak.
- Feel like you want to faint.
If you haven’t been getting a good night’s sleep despite having changed your routine or put effort into improving your sleep hygiene, and you have any of the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to see a doctor!
It’s super important to read up on the possible side effects when you’re taking medication. Surprisingly, this can also affect the quality of your sleep. Certain medications can also affect the electrical signals of the heart, which can increase the number of beats per minute, even when you’re sleeping.
Some medications that can affect your heart rate and sleep are:
- Cough and cold medications.
- Allergy medication.
- Thyroid medication.
- Nicotine patches or gums.
- Asthma medications.
That’s not to say you’ll definitely have a higher heart rate if you’re on meds! But if you feel that your medication could be affecting your sleep or your heart rate, you should consult with your doctor. They may change the type of medication that you’re on or just change the dosages.
How To Track Heart Rate While Sleeping
If you’re tracking your blood pressure, you’d also benefit from tracking your heart beats while you sleep. It would provide more insight into the quality of your sleep, and indicate if there’s any cause for concern that will require a doctor’s visit.
Thanks to modern technology, you can monitor your heart rate when you sleep using either a fitness watch or with something like an Oura ring. These devices sync to an app that allows you to see exactly how much deep sleep you had, how much light sleep you had, and how much time you spent awake during the night.
They’ll also track your heart rate throughout the night, providing information on what your heart rate was for every sleep cycle throughout the night. This information is stored, and you can monitor your sleep patterns over the course of a month or year.
This will be a huge help if you’re trying to change your routine to get better quality sleep!
So, what is a good sleeping heart rate? Well, there’s no specific answer. It depends on you, your health, your activity levels, and medication you may be taking at the time.
But, a good sleeping heart rate can range from 40 to 100 beats per minute.
If you aren’t sure what yours is, why not get yourself a fitness tracker to monitor it? You may just gain some insights into why you feel so tired during the day and be able to change habits to get better quality rest!