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What Is Considered a Normal Sleeping Heart Rate?

Sleeping heart rate can vary throughout each of the five stages of sleep.
Physical fitness can affect sleeping heart rate.
Heart rate can often vary widely during REM sleep.
As the body goes into a deep sleep state, core body temperature decreases and the heart rate slows.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2014
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Sleeping heart rate should generally be somewhat lower than normal resting heart rate while awake, because the body typically relaxes very deeply during sleep. As a person begins to fall asleep, the heart rate begins to slow, and studies suggest that this process can begin as soon as a person knows he is preparing for sleep. As the body relaxes into a deep sleep state, core body temperature can decrease and metabolism usually slows, in addition to heart rate. Physical fitness level, age, and recent stress levels can all influence sleeping heart rate. Most experts believe, however, that normal heart rate during sleep should be eight to ten percent lower than normal resting heart rate while awake. A sleeping heart rate that is not at least eight percent lower than normal resting heart rate while awake could be a danger sign.

There are at least five stages of sleep, and sleeping heart rate can vary throughout each of the sleep stages. The first four stages of sleep, generally categorized as sleep stages one through four, occur as the body relaxes more and more deeply. This process of physiological relaxation accounts for about 80 percent of most peoples' sleep time. Heart rate usually begins to slow as stage one sleep is entered, and slows further as the body relaxes further.

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Heart rate can often vary widely during REM sleep, the fifth stage of sleep during which dreaming usually occurs. Rapid eye movement (REM), sleep, is so named because the sleeping person's eye movements are usually visible to any observers. Physiological states can vary widely during REM sleep, possibly depending on the sleeper's emotional reactions to his dreams. Heart rate can increase considerably during REM sleep, and may even exceed normal resting heart rate while awake. Respiratory rates can also increase, and other physiological functions, such as perspiration, can occur.

Some evidence suggests that heart rate during sleep can be a good indication of possible mortality over the next seven years of the sleeper's life. An Israeli study suggests that people who do not experience at least an eight to ten percent reduction in heart rate while asleep may be as much as two-and-a-half times more likely to die within the next seven years of their lives. The study also seemed to suggest that people with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, are probably most likely to experience the least reduction in heart rate while asleep.

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anon948341
Post 6

My advice is to run more often. Over a three month period I went from literally not being able to reach the corner of the street, to running four miles daily. Now I run four to five miles daily with an occasional seven mile run. My RHR hovers around 50 and I have seen my heart rate go as low as 43 bpm as I am drifting off to sleep. Just put in the miles and your low RHR will come.

anon342126
Post 5

I have consistently had a resting heart rate of 110-115 bpm for a few years. One month ago I did a sleep study and discovered it was not dropping below 100. I was running for 30 min two to three times a week and it still was high. Any ideas?

allenJo
Post 3

@SkyWhisperer - I agree about the relaxation techniques. Clear your mind of worries before you sleep and this will have powerful effects on the quality of your sleep.

For one thing, you won’t have nightmares. Nightmares will definitely increase your sleeping heart rate. How many times have you awakened in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat with your heart palpitating wildly? I know that I have.

The root cause is worry and fear. So practice stress relaxation and you’ll have more restful sleep and you will increase your lifespan too. I think stress is a killer.

SkyWhisperer
Post 2

@MrMoody - I have mixed feelings about this. I think in general, you want a low target heart rate, even in your waking state. I’ve heard that athletes, for example, have an average heart rate of sixty beats per minute. That’s considered quite good and shows that they are really in shape.

Their sleeping heart rate will be lower and this can only be better. If you have a heart rate of 100 beats per minute, by contrast, does it really matter if your sleeping heart rate is about 90? Is that considered safe just because it’s less than your waking rate? Personally, I don’t think so.

I believe the best thing to do is to exercise and work on reducing your heart beats per minute. I’ve also heard that stress relaxation techniques like prayer and meditation can assist in this regard as well.

MrMoody
Post 1

While I don’t know much about the science behind it, I’ve heard that drinking too much coffee can cause you to have a high heart rate. Of course this is talking about your waking heart rate, but I suspect that it may affect sleep too.

As a result I have stopped drinking coffee right before I go to bed. I used to do that before; it was never smart anyway because coffee is a stimulant and in theory it should prevent you from sleeping.

It never did that to me; however I suspect that it did raise my heart rate. I want to be those people who live to be a hundred. An evening cup of coffee isn’t worth cutting my life short.

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