What’s a Normal Sleeping Heart Rate?

Heart rate during sleep can vary depending on age, fitness level, and underlying health conditions. A normal resting heart rate during sleep can range from 40 to 50 BPM. Sleep stage can affect heart rate during sleep as can factors such as stress, caffeine, and alcohol. Tracking heart rate during sleep can provide valuable information about overall health and sleep quality. You can use a wearable fitness tracker or smartwatch to monitor heart rate during sleep.

There are several things that can fluctuate throughout the day—your energy level, your weight—and your heart rate is another. [1] There are many factors that can make it vary as you go about your routine. Stress and exercise can make it higher [2,3] while sleep can lower it. [4]

“As your body’s demand for energy fluctuates throughout the day, your heart rate will adjust accordingly to meet those energy requirements,” says Estelle D. Jean, MD, a board-certified cardiologist. “Your heart rate will increase in response to physical activity, to stimulants such as caffeine, or during periods of emotional stress, anxiety, and pain. It can also decrease while you are sitting, sleeping, or meditating.” [6, 18]

While heart rate does generally go down during sleep, a normal sleeping heart rate can vary from person to person and can also vary depending on what exact state of sleep you are in. One study found that the average sleeping heart rate for participants was about 60 beats per minute. [5] Another study that measured average sleeping heart rate for individuals over several nights found and average heart rate anywhere from 45-77 beats per minute. [13]

Ahead, you’ll discover everything you need to know about your heart rate while sleeping, what’s considered too low, and how to manage your heart rate during sleep.

Average heart rates

Resting heart rate

“Resting heart rate is a measure of your heart rate while at rest and relaxed,” says Jean. She adds that the normal average heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 BPM. [6]

But this is something that can be different from person to person for several reasons. For example, some people may have a resting heart rate as low as 30 BPM, and it can also decrease by age, as proven through study[7]

“For many individuals, a heart rate less than 60 BPM may be an indicator of cardiovascular fitness, as well-conditioned athletes typically have a slower resting heart rate,” [6] Jean explains. “It is important to consider factors such as age, physical fitness, medications, underlying medical conditions, and symptoms when trying to determine if the slow heart rate is problematic.” [16]

Heart rate during exercise

It’s only natural that your heart rate increases during exercise—that means you’re doing it right. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has targeted heart rates you can aim for during exercise, ranging anywhere from 109 BPM to 172 BPM. [8]

“Your heart rate will increase during exercise to supply more oxygen to your muscles,” Jean says. [17]

Just be sure to consult with a doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program and go over any risk factors you may have.

Heart rate while sleeping

During sleep, your average sleeping heart rate may go down to below 60 beats per minute [7], but again, this can vary. It’s not uncommon to have a heart rate in the 30s while sleeping—and Jean says it can briefly drop as low as 30 BPM while sleeping in a healthy individual. [7]

Noting that your sleeping heart rate will typically be lower than your daytime resting heart rate, Jean says a normal sleeping heart rate depends on several factors, such as age and physical fitness.

How does your heart rate change while you sleep?

Your heart rate isn’t only affected by the act of sleeping but by where you’re at in your sleep cycle as well. [9] 

Jean says a normal response to sleep is a decrease in heart rate. The heart rate is slowest during deep sleep and may increase during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when the majority of your dreams take place. [9]

What can affect your sleeping heart rate?

Several factors can affect your sleeping heart rate, making it go higher or lower. According to Jean, these causes can include:

  • Age
  • Physical fitness
  • Emotions
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Getting sick
  • Stimulants
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormones
  • Medications
  • Sleep apnea
  • Underlying medical conditions

She adds that with all these factors to consider, it’s not surprising resting heart rate can vary from person to person.

What is a dangerously low sleeping heart rate?

While your sleeping heart rate can undoubtedly fluctuate, there’s such a thing as a dangerously low heart rate while sleeping. This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked and necessitates a conversation with your doctor. [10]

“Obstructive sleep apnea is an important health condition that can cause significantly slow heart rates (less than 30 BPM) during episodes of low oxygen levels while sleeping,” explains Jean. “Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea can put a strain on the heart and cardiovascular system.” [14]

Jean adds that severe obstructive sleep apnea has been associated with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, other arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death. [15]

How can you measure your sleeping heart rate?

If you’re sleeping, how can you figure out what your sleeping heart rate is? With a smartwatch and/or app that can help track it.

Jean says there are several such devices on the market. “Common devices frequently used by my patients include the Apple Watch and KardiaMobile,” she says. “If your provider suspects that you may have a sleep disorder, they may also recommend a sleep study.”

It can also be beneficial to measure your heart rate while not sleeping.

“It’s best to measure your heart rate when you are relaxed and at rest,” says Jean. “Avoid measuring your heart rate after exercising, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, or when feeling stressed and anxious.” [6, 8]

How can you manage your sleeping heart rate?

While it may seem largely out of your control, there are actually several ways you can ensure your sleeping heart rate is in the normal range. With a focus on engaging in healthy lifestyle habits that improve overall cardiovascular health—as recommended by the CDC and American Heart Association [11, 12] —these ideas from Jean include:

  • Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity fitness and two days a week of strength training. “Being physically fit is associated with a lower resting heart rate,” Jean says.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Some examples include the Mediterranean diet, a plant-based diet, a flexitarian diet, and the DASH diet (which is a dietary approach to stopping hypertension). “You want to avoid processed foods and limit your intake of unhealthy fats,” says Jean. “A heart-healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean sources of protein, such as fish and poultry over red meat.”
  • Avoid nicotine.
  • Avoid caffeine before going to bed.
  • Limit alcohol intake to the recommended amount (one serving a day for women and two servings a day for men). “Alcohol in excess has been linked to poor sleep quality and insomnia,” Jean says. “You should avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed.”
  • Get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep at night.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety. Consider yoga, meditation, therapy, and deep breathing exercises.
  • Get treatment for underlying conditions such as hypothyroidism and sleep apnea.

“Normal sleeping heart rate depends on several factors, which is why it’s important to consult with your medical provider if you have any concerns or symptoms,” Jean concludes.

FAQs

What is a good heart rate when sleeping?

During sleep, your average sleeping heart rate may decrease to below normal from 40-60 beats per minute, but this can vary from person to person depending on other factors like medical conditions or medication use.

What is an unsafe heart rate while sleeping?

Because of the wide variability in sleeping heart rate, it is not possible to state exact parameters for an unsafe heart rate while asleep. Jean, however, states anything below 30 beats per minute should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Is resting heart rate the same as sleeping heart rate?

These are different things. Jean says your sleeping heart rate will typically be lower than your daytime resting heart rate.

References

  1. Vandewalle G, Middleton B, Rajaratnam SM, et al. Robust circadian rhythm in heart rate and its variability: influence of exogenous melatonin and photoperiod. J Sleep Res. 2007;16(2):148-155. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2007.00581.x
  2. Torpy JM, Burke AE, Glass RM. Acute Emotional Stress and the Heart. JAMA. 2007;298(3):360. doi:10.1001/jama.286.3.374
  3. Evans DL. Cardiovascular adaptations to exercise and training. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 1985;1(3):513-531. doi:10.1016/s0749-0739(17)30748-4
  4. Sajjadieh A, Shahsavari A, Safaei A, et al. The Association of Sleep Duration and Quality with Heart Rate Variability and Blood Pressure. Tanaffos. 2020;19(2):135-143.
  5. Azza Y, Grueschow M, Karlen W, Seifritz E, Kleim B. How stress affects sleep and mental health: nocturnal heart rate increases during prolonged stress and interacts with childhood trauma exposure to predict anxiety. Sleep. 2020;43(6):zsz310. doi:10.1093/sleep/zsz310
  6. American Heart Association. All About Heart Rate (Pulse). https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/all-about-heart-rate-pulse
  7. Avram R, Tison GH, Aschbacher K, et al. Real-world heart rate norms in the Health eHeart study. NPJ Digit Med. 2019;2:58. Published 2019 Jun 25. doi:10.1038/s41746-019-0134-9
  8. CDC. Target Heart and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm
  9. Trinder J, Kleiman J, Carrington M, et al. Autonomic activity during human sleep as a function of time and sleep stage. J Sleep Res. 2001;10(4):253-264. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2869.2001.00263.x
  10. 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
  11. CDC. Prevent Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm
  12. The American Heart Association. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations
  13. Waldeck MR, Lambert MI. Heart rate during sleep: implications for monitoring training status. J Sports Sci Med. 2003;2(4):133-138. Published 2003 Dec 1.
  14. Zwillich C, Devlin T, White D, Douglas N, Weil J, Martin R. Bradycardia during sleep apnea. Characteristics and mechanism. J Clin Invest. 1982;69(6):1286-1292. doi:10.1172/jci110568
  15. Jean-Louis G, Zizi F, Clark LT, Brown CD, McFarlane SI. Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease: role of the metabolic syndrome and its components. J Clin Sleep Med. 2008;4(3):261-272.
  16. American Heart Association. Bradycardia: Slow Heart Rate. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/about-arrhythmia/bradycardia–slow-heart-rate
  17. Korthuis RJ. Skeletal Muscle Circulation. San Rafael (CA): Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. Chapter 4, Exercise Hyperemia and Regulation of Tissue Oxygenation During Muscular Activity. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK57139/
  18. Chang KM, Wu Chueh MT, Lai YJ. Meditation Practice Improves Short-Term Changes in Heart Rate Variability. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(6):2128. Published 2020 Mar 23. doi:10.3390/ijerph17062128
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