Palpitations at Night: What You Should Know

Palpitations at night usually aren't something to be concerned about, but may be related to a blood pressure problem or sleep apnea. It's best to talk to your doctor to determine the cause.
Palpitations at Night: What You Should Know

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 27 May, 2022

In this article, we’ll take a look at why you may experience palpitations at night.

Palpitations occur when you can feel your heartbeat. They’re quite common and, although they’re alarming, they’re usually not harmful.

When you get them, it feels like your heartbeat is thumping or fluttering. Also, the heartbeat tends to speed up and is very strong. Most people find these palpitations unpleasant.

Palpitations are usually caused by exercise, stress, or certain medications. However, they can also be a symptom of certain illnesses. They can also be accompanied by other chest discomfort or difficulty breathing. In this article, we will explain what palpitations are, and especially why you may experience palpitations at night.

Causes of palpitations

woman with palpitations

As we mentioned, palpitations aren’t serious most of the time. In addition, it’s difficult to determine their cause. However, some of the most common situations that you could experience them are:

  • Fever
  • Certain changes such as pregnancy or menstruation
  • Thyroid disorders, especially hyperthyroidism
  • Times of stress or anxiety: Even if it’s subconscious and prolonged stress, you might still experience palpitations.
  • Exercise tends to speed up your heart rate and cause palpitations: They’ll usually go away with rest.
  • Substances such as caffeine, nicotine, or stimulant drugs: For example, cocaine and amphetamines are known for causing palpitations.

In addition, cardiac abnormalities such as arrhythmias often show up as palpitations. For that reason, although they’re not usually serious, it’s important to figure out what’s causing them, especially if they’re prolonged or are causing other pain. 

What should you know about palpitations at night?

Sometimes people will only notice their palpitations at bedtime. In these cases, people tend to notice them in their neck or throat. This is often caused by a change in blood pressure. And, when we sleep, our blood pressure tends to be lower. 

In fact, it tends to rise during the day, reaching its highest point in the afternoon. Then, it can drop a lot at night. So, the heart beats faster to keep everything moving in our organs. That’s why we notice palpitations at night. In addition, you may experience pain or shortness of breath.

Also, you can’t forget that stress is one of the main causes of palpitations. We all know that stressful thoughts tend to fill our heads at bedtime. As a result, anxiety and stress can disturb our sleep and rest. 

Another cause of palpitations at night is sleep apnea. This disorder interrupts your breathing and makes it very shallow. These interruptions can last from a few seconds to minutes, and repeat throughout the night. Therefore, the person suffering from sleep apnea cannot get adequate rest.

In addition, it’s important to emphasize that the position you sleep in is decisive. When you sleep on your side, the pressure makes your heart beat more intensely. 

Read also: Insomnia Disorder: Causes and Treatment

Are there any complications associated with palpitations at night?

doctor checking patient

The risk of suffering from complications is very low. However, if they’re caused by heart disease, the risk is very high. In addition, you may faint because your blood pressure will drop when your heart is beating too fast.

Also, suffering from a stroke is a concern. For example, when dealing with atrial fibrillation, blood clots will form. Then, if these detach, they can obstruct brain circulation. 
Palpitations can also be a symptom of cardiac arrhythmia. This condition causes the heart to beat ineffectively and can lead to cardiac arrest.

Stay calm! Palpitations at night usually aren’t serious

Palpitations are very common and usually aren’t associated with any diseases. They tend to be simple physiological situations where you feel your heartbeat more than you normally would. However, if the palpitations are more persistent and are accompanied by other symptoms, you should see a doctor.

In addition, if you experience palpitations at night, they may be a sign of changes in blood pressure or sleep apnea. When in doubt, we recommend seeing a professional.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Mirvis DM. Palpitations. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 10. Available from:
  • Wuyts L, Pouillon M, Huyghe M, Ruyssers N, Goovaerts G, Spaepen M. Palpitations, headache and night sweats caused by a retroperitoneal mass: case report and short review. BJR Case Rep. 2017;3(4):20170035. Published 2017 Aug 2. doi:10.1259/bjrcr.20170035
  • Goyal A, Robinson KJ, Sanchack KE. Palpitations. [Updated 2019 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from:
  • Gula LJ, Krahn AD, Skanes AC, Yee R, Klein GJ. Clinical relevance of arrhythmias during sleep: guidance for clinicians. Heart. 2004;90(3):347–352. doi:10.1136/hrt.2003.019323

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.