I Wake Up With My Heart Racing – Should I Be Worried?


If you wake up with your heart racing, you’re probably wondering why it’s happening and whether or not to be worried. Oftentimes, someone who wakes up with a racing heart is fine. But a racing heart can also indicate other health problems, especially for those with certain pre-existing medical issues. Let’s explore this topic a little more in-depth.

Common Reasons Why You’re Waking Up With Your Heart Racing 

  • Stress or anxiety — People with high-stress lifestyles or anxiety disorders might have heart palpitations when they wake up, especially during stressful times.
  • Night terrors, nightmares, and sleep paralysis — Heart pounding after nightmares isn’t harmful and should subside as the day goes on.
  • Sleep deprivation — Those who don’t get enough sleep can have a slightly faster heartbeat the next day.
  • Diet — Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol (especially before bed) as well as dehydration can increase the risk of heart palpitations.
  • Diabetes — Low blood sugar releases epinephrine in people with diabetes, which can cause a pounding heart.
  • Fever — Changes in body temperature can induce changes in heart rate. 
  • A-fib (Atrial fibrillation) — This is a common kind of abnormal heartbeat that can cause heart palpitations. 
  • Sleep apnea — Low oxygen levels at night can put more stress on your heart, causing it to race. 
  • Anemia — People with anemia can experience heart palpitations due to a lack of healthy red blood cells.
  • Hyperthyroidism — An overactive thyroid overproduces the thyroxine hormone, which can cause a rapid heartbeat.
  • Menstrual hormones — Changing estrogen and progesterone levels during menstruation, as well as hot flashes during menopause, may cause a racing heart. 
  • Medications — Certain medications can make your heart race, especially those that contain stimulants like amphetamines, pseudoephedrine, ADHD medication, and some thyroid medication.

Look Out for These Other Symptoms

  • Shaking — If you wake up with a racing heart and you’re shaking, this could be caused by diabetes, hyperthyroidism, fever, medication, night terrors, or being cold. 
  • Shortness of breath — If shortness of breath accompanies your racing heart, you could have anemia, AFib, sleep apnea, or anxiety.
  • Pounding —  If you feel your heart racing and a pounding in your head, you could be having heart palpitations due to diabetes or fever.
  • Chest pain and dizziness — Waking up with a racing heart, chest pain, and dizziness are warning signs of a heart attack. If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. 

When to See a Doctor 

Although this seems like a long list of scary symptoms, waking up with a racing heart or heart palpitations is usually harmless and it will go away on its own. However, if this happens consistently — and especially if you think it’s getting worse — you should seek professional medical attention.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, listen to your heart using a stethoscope, and possibly perform some other tests. This could include an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), chest x-ray, blood or urine analysis, and other tests depending on your symptoms.

If you’re looking for medical help, advice, and guidance for your racing heart, schedule a consultation with Tri-City Cardiology today!

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