Waking Up with Heart Pounding – Is It Dangerous?

When you're sleeping, you may experience a lot of things even when just laying in bed. Not only does sleep get you the proper amount of rest and energy for the day to come, but it also has you dreaming and going everywhere!

Unfortunately, sleeping isn't always good dreams and good rest. Sometimes, people start waking up heart racing and at a start! While this may be a sign of a nightmare, there might be even more underlying causes as to why it happens.

So, should you worry about these palpitations and see a doctor? Before that, you can try to evaluate why you wake up with such a start! Read on as I talk about why one starts wake up  with heart racing and feeling anxious.


How Does One Wake Up With Their Heart Racing? Is It Normal?

wake up heart racing

Imagine this: You come home from work and cook yourself dinner. After a few hours, you head on to take a good night's sleep to get ready for the day ahead. You feel like you drift off and expect a full eight hours of sleep.

Suddenly, you get up to a start, with your heart racing and sweating a LOT. Not only that, but you might feel anxious and worried, sometimes even confused. Sure, it may have been a nightmare, but do you recall what it was? Or if you even had a dream at all?

When you wake up with your heart racing, it's a bit worrying. Not only that, but it's either difficult to fall back to sleep, or to get up feeling relaxed. Heart racing when waking up is not a joke; if it isn't a sleeping condition, it can detriment your sleeping patterns!

But why does this happen and what can you do to stop it?

How Does One Wake Up With Their Heart Racing? Is It Normal?

The usual symptoms when waking up with heart race would be palpitations and shortness of breath. Sometimes, you simply get up feeling confused and anxious.

So, why does this happen? Here are the reasons why:

Sleep Apnea

wake up with heart racing

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleeping disorders that interrupt your sleep due to abnormal breathing patterns. One of the main symptoms would be snoring and not breathing for a few minutes at a time.

When you stop breathing for a while, then you awake and immediately sit up, your blood pressure rises. It then increases your pulse and heart rate.

Sleep Apnea is NO mild condition and can be fatal if not treated properly. It not only does it affect your heart rate but increases the chances of heart failure as well.

Stress or Emotional Triggers

When you feel stressed or nervous, your heart rate begins to grow. Whether it's excitement or anxiety, it produces adrenaline that keeps your heart going.

So if you happen to feel stressed or excited before you sleep, the chances are that you'll wake up with your heart racing.

Not only would emotional triggers cause you to awake with your heart racing, but it might also cause more pain and disrupted sleep.

Nightmare or Night Terrors

This is one of the most common reasons why your heart races. If you have suffered from a bad dream, the feeling of worry or fear makes your heart rates rise. Sometimes you'll wake up to a start, while other times you'll forget the nightmare but still wake up in the morning with your heart beating fast.

Besides your heart racing, you may get up to a sweaty body and rapid breathing. Also, it might disturb your sleeping pattern and might even cause injuries if you have a history of sleepwalking or moving around.

Atrial Fibrillation

woke up heart racing

Atrial Fibrillation is a common type of abnormal heart rhythm when your hearts parts can't supply it with oxygenated blood. Once the circulation begins to increase, you start to palpitate, which may happen while sleeping until you wake up. 

Hormonal Changes in Women

Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause may make your heart rate go faster. This is a temporary feeling that will go away after going through the process and changing your eating and exercise habits.


waking up with palpitations

If you have just recently started taking medicine, then one of the symptoms might be palpitations or an abnormal heart rate. There's no need to worry though, as this is a common side effect of medicines.

Diet and Workout Regime

The types of food or sinks you consume before sleeping play a role in how you sleep and the way your heart works. When taking in caffeine, spicy food or recreational drugs may cause your heart to beat faster, even while you're sleeping and once you wake up.

Even exercising before sleeping can make your heart beat faster when you wake up!

Heart Disease

wake up with racing heart

If you regularly wake up with your heart palpitating, then you might be at risk of a heart illness, or you're suffering from a previous heart attack. It might be a warning sign of a heart problem.

Low Blood Pressure or Sugar

Both of these are related to your heart, with one of the main symptoms being heart palpitations. The reason why your heart beats fast is that your body is trying to fix the problem. It usually happens when you lack sleep, skip meals, or have too much insulin.

Other Health Conditions

waking up with pounding heart

There are other types of sicknesses that may end up causing heart trouble, which results to palpitations when waking up in the morning. It may be hyperthyroidism, anemia, fever, dehydration, or diabetes.

How to Stop Waking Up With a Racing Heart?

If you wake up with your heart racing, here are some tips on how you can regulate your heartbeat and prevent it from happening again: 

  • Change Your Eating and Exercise Habits
heart races when i wake up

Do NOT consume any form of caffeine late in the day. Also, it's best to eat at least three hours before going to bed. Don't exercise before bedtime and choose to do it in the morning.

Try eating sleep-inducing foods before bed if you're hungry, such as nuts or dairy.

  • Reduce Stress

Instead of focusing on worries and stress from work, try to have a bedtime routine to relax and ease yourself into calm sleep mode slowly. Turn off anything that emits noise and put your phone on silent.

Using a white machine and essential oils can help let your body mitigate into a quiet and palpitation-less sleep. This will also contribute to reducing night terrors.

  • Consult Your Doctor
waking up with heart palpitations

If the symptoms persist and you still suffer from heart palpitations, then it's best to ask your doctor. He may change the prescribed medicines he gave you (if they cause rapid heart rates). Or, he may have you take a new drug to allay the heart rate and diagnose your condition.

If it is a heart problem, then it's better to be safe than sorry by asking your doctor about it.

In Conclusion

Protect Your Pillows

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your wellbeing, but there are underlying factors that may stop you from doing so. When waking up heart racing and feeling very anxious, then it may be time to have it checked or to follow better sleeping habits. Not only will you wake up feeling comfortable, but you are assured of a well-rested night without waking up to a start.

I hope that this article shows you why people begin waking up with heart race and what you can do to help prevent it from happening again. So if you happen to suffer from waking up heart racing and uncomfortable, then evaluate why it happens and follow these tips to stop it.

If you enjoyed the article or have any more questions about waking up to a start, then comment down below. I would love to hear what you have to think.

23 thoughts on “Waking Up with Heart Pounding – Is It Dangerous?”

  1. Thank you, I can rest better now knowing what my symptoms may be,I enjoy reading your article about my symptoms and will surly be reading more of your columns in the future.

  2. You given me more insight into what may be contributing factors to tachycardia while sleeping. Blessings

  3. I have problems going back and forth from insomnia to falling asleep at times when I feel I have no business even feeling tired, when that happens I feel extremely lathargic. I was diagnosed with PTSD from waking up with my fiance passed away right beside me in bed. I was told by my psychiatrist at the time that this was the cause of my heart racing. Not only does my heart race I feel like my entire body is viberating inside and I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Since the PTSD diagnosis I also have been diagnosed with AFib from one ER doctor and then also I’ve been diagnosed with a 1st degree heart blockage, which a separate ER doctor said I didn’t have either of these heart problems. I was suppose to see a cardiologist but since I do not have health insurance this is hard to do. Right now I have several conditions happening that are keeping me from working. I’d love to have my sleep cycle return to normal and have hopes of that alone helping other conditions I have. I’ve had ER doctors run tests to see if I’ve had a stroke before because I had every symptom except that of slurred speech and then the type of doctor to read the tests wasn’t even at the hospital. Is there anyone who can offer me insight on how to get the proper testing I need done?

    • Hi,
      What is every sympto of having a stroke other than slurred speech Just wondering. I too was told by a computer printout that I had a right budle branch block then I went to see a cardiologist who tld me I do not have that. Here is the assessment from the cardiologist:1. cardivascular exam normaql
      2.electrocardiogram sinus rhythm without alteration
      3.echocardiogram cavities of normal size, systolic function of both ventricles normal no pulmonary hypertension. I translateed it from Spanish and I belive it is accurate He assured me I was fine and actually I was such a mess emotionally becasue I had broken no contact with my narcissitic abuser so it was a very hard time in my life. I am oly nine months out now and things are a lot better but I still wake up ay night with the paic but after all the abuse I suffered and the fact that I have had hypoxic seizures frm not breathing during the day I guess I can have them during the night too. I wake efre it happens though. I am guessing that is what is going on. When I write about my life I realize that eing all alone in the world with no one who knows what happened to me as a child is extremely stressful and being abused by narcissits for 47 years is going to take more than nine months to recover. I know this is true.Good luck to you. I have hyperventilate because of what they did to me so I can relate to your ptsd symptoms. Good Luck.

  4. Excellent article. I suffer from panic attacks and just recently started to wake up like I’m in the midst of one. Very scary stuff. I have medicine to deal with anxiety but waking up with a heart beating hard/feat etc is awful
    I also have MS. Not sure that’s contributing

    Thanks again for your help

    • Hi Stary,
      I am very happy to know that our article can help you! We will try harder to get more quality information for you.
      Thank you so much!

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    • Hi John,
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  7. Would a cardiac calcium scoring test or a thyroid ultrasound do anything to tell you if your palps/anxiety have a physical cause? I have been given ton of Xanax and my anxiety continue to worsen along with my mental state. I had a bout of shingles a few month before this hit that was so painful at night, I dreaded going to bed. So, I assumed this was something where my brain was trained to wake up feeling awful when when the pain went. The fact that the medical profession sends you in circles just increases anxiety. Like someone above, I did have a loved one die in the same bed, but I was a child. Been a very long time and never had this before though. I can’t even nap without the anxiety waking me up even with Xanax in system. I have Hashimotos antibodies, but have for years and my TSH always normal. Anyone that can solve this I will nominate for Nobel Prize.

  8. I wake from dreams, whether scary or not between 2-3 AM with my heart racing. It is ALWAYS immediately AFTER a dream, or it wakes me from the dream. I grunt and cough to get my heart rate down to normal and because I just woke up, I’m tired. But the thinking “is this my heart, is this a warning, what if it happens again?” I can’t easily fall asleep though exhausted. I thought it may have been applying Rogaine as some articles mentioned the increased heart rate. Because dreams often occur during REM, it had me thinking it is apnea, but I am a nose breather so not sure it’s apnea. I am going to see a cardiologist and do a sleep study. I find myself tired during the day sometimes. My heart feels strong, I can exercise, walk, do hard work and feel fine during the day.
    Anyway great article!!

  9. I was waking up every time I fell asleep and they put an oxygen monitor on my finger and told me my oxygen never dropped. BUt I was awake the whole night I never went into deep sleep. I do snore loudly when on my back but ot at all when I am on my side.l I am still waking up once every few weeks with the heart racing. I have a lot of stress in my life. I was severely abused by my mother and my father was a violent alcoholic so I have a lot of trauma. I had psychogenic or hypoxic seizures in which I had what looked like a tonic clonic epileptic seizure a convulsion shaking and urinating but I was told there is nothing wrong with my brain it is trauma I cannot process. I just want to know that it is ok to wake up with my heart pounding and that it doesn’t mean I am having a heart attack obviously I have not had one yet ad i have experienced these racing heart episodes for a long time now. I am just so scared when it happens because i think it means that my heart won’t be able to handle it and I will have a heart attack. I take Klonopin 2 mg before bed I have to to sleep and every time this happens i have to take half a klonopin to make my heart calm down. It petrifies me if I had one person tell me “These won’t cause a heart attack it is just an advisory to your body that you aren’t breathing then I thik they would go away. Because I sleep pn my side now and do not snore . I guess I am still stopping breathing at night in my sleep. But as I said though I feel like I am not getting enough o2 a test said I was. Also, I fell out of a bunk bed because I was snoring loudly on my back in a hostel and the violent criminal beneath me shook the bed so furiously I fell out of it. I know God is with me because nthing happened to me I did ont even get a pinched nerve. But when I woke up I guess it frightened me or something and I had my first psychogenic seizure i 18 years. I fell down as I was trying to orient myself and seized. I was mving across the world the next day so it was pretty stressful but it scared me that was on March 2 so since then I have had heart racing episodes but no other psychogenic seizures though I did have a major panic attack after waking up a week ago with my heart racing I breathed and calmed myself down and was able to get bacdk to sleep. There has been things bothering me. The people where I am stayng are very negative and this causes me to not feel safe emotionally so I do think there is an emotional component but I also think I am not breathing sometimes when I sleep it may be due to panic and not obstruction because the first time i went to get my gran mal seizures diagnosed at 23 I was told by the neurologist: I can see you aren’t breathing right now. I think it could wither be sleep apnesa or the fact that when I used to be abused I wouldn’t breathe. The neurologist said you are not breathing and becoming hypoxic. Telling me that apnea can be fatal doesn’t help me. I know I do not have severe apnea because I notice EVERYTHING in my body every slight change every feeling every sensitivity so it is not going to kill me. Panic attacks will not kill me. Can someone please offer me soe comfort No one in my life ever has I had no mother my mother beat me from age 4 I know I was 4 because my kindergarten teacher asked me about the bruises all over y legs. I hid under a table when she beat me so I could escape the worst of it so she kicked my legs while I was hiding undr the table. So yeah, I guess I have every reason to be having panic attacks. I also think that whenever i am deeply relaxed y body jerks me awake because it wasn’t safe in my home to be relaxed I did not kow where the next beating was coming from I had to be alert 24 hours a day. In case you think that goes away ever-it doesn’t no matter how mch “work” you do on yourself. Perhaps as tmore time passes since i went no contact with my ritually child abusing family elapses I will maybe learn how to feel relaxed how to let myself relax. But I cannot say for sure because I never felt safe in the world. I a always worrying about where I will live and if I will have enough money. I do the est I can and I need to stop reading things like “it could be fatal etc. I went to the cardiologist in August or September and he told me that my heart was healthy in the echo. I had 58 to 60 heart efficiency rate and he told ke I have no heart disease. I am swimming now and enjoying that. I guess I will trust The Universe who loves me so much even though my family did not that it will protect me and not let e die. But6 waking up alone with y heart racing scares me so uch . I look 34 but i am 48 I will be 49 on Saturday. I know I will not die fro these episodes. I will be sure to stay on my side but it happened there too. I have low blood pressure but i eat before bed. This usually happens one hour after i have been asleep. I don’t know why. It isn’t random. Maybe because I eat at night my blood sugar drops or something and along with it my blood pressure. I just need a kind word from someone that I will be ok it is not fatal and I can handle the a lot better,. Thank You.

    • I’m sorry for all that you have endured in your life. I wish you the best, that you meet caring and loving people in this journey we call life.

      I hope you find peace, and are able to relax and enjoy life more and more every day. I have no medical advice, just sending you good thoughts and wishing you the best. The only thing I can think of, is surround yourself with positive things, read inspirational books, our mind is strong and we can reprogram our mind a bit at a time. Stay away from negative people, they do nothing for our soul.

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