The typical daily sleep requirement for adults is seven to nine hours according to the National Sleep Foundation. During this period of time, our bodies are resting without any interruptions, and our mind is stilled to unconsciousness. It is during these hours that our heart rate slows down because of complex regulatory mechanisms. But what is the normal sleeping heart rate? The answer to this question rests on various factors such as your resting heart rate while awake and the stage of sleep you are in during the night. Your medical conditions will also have an impact on your heart rate during sleep.
Factors which affect your sleeping heart rate
When your body transitions to “sleep mode” during the night, it transmits signals that are vital. These signals affect your sleeping heart rate, blood pressure, and your body temperature. Various other body functions will also be affected. Your sleeping heart rate decreases during sleep by approximately 24 beats in a minute for young adults and 14 beats per minute for those above 80. According to a New England Journal of Medicine article published in March 2009, the 24 and 14 beats per minute decrease in an important factor to consider for various reasons. But keep in mind that your sleeping heart rate will change as you go from one sleeping stage to another one.
REM and non-REM sleep
During your sleeping hours, two primary types of sleep occur. These are commonly referred to as REM and non-REM sleep. Rapid eye movement is commonly mentioned with the acronym REM. This sleep time is associated with vivid dreams that the person may or may not remember.
Non-REM sleep has a subdivision of three stages: N1, N2, and N3. The deepest stage of sleep during the non-REM stage is the N3 stage. You will enter this non-REM stage approximately 75% to 80% of your sleeping time. Several times during the night you will go from N1 to N3 and then to the REM stage.
Commonly, your sleeping heart rate will be lower during the non-REM compared to the REM stage of sleep, or while you are in your waking hours. About 20% to 25% of sleep time is spent in the REM sleep stage for adults. Your dreams may occur during both types of sleep, but it is most common in the REM stage.
The clearer, story-like dreams that often remain in the memory occurs during the REM stage of sleep. Your sleeping time in the REM stage will be quite different and your sleeping heart rate will fluctuate accordingly. The sleeping heart rate during REM sleep is commonly higher and fluctuates more than in the non-REM stage. It is during the REM stage that your blood flow increases and activity in particular areas of the brain rises. There are also various nerve signals that are impacted to such a level that there will be changes in the heart rate.
Is there a standard sleeping heart rate?
It is just not possible to set a particular sleeping heart rate as the standard range or the normal range. With our advanced understanding of sleep, we now know that the sleeping time is not a simple matter. The sleeping process consists of several stages and substages and continues to cycle throughout the night. This happens to such a level that your heart rate will fluctuate significantly. This is the clear indication that there is no such thing as a standard or normal range for the heart rate while you are sleeping.
If you have certain medical conditions, you may be prone to face abnormalities in your sleeping heart rate and rhythm. One example of this is Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The blood oxygen content drops significantly and causes the heart rate or rhythm to show abnormalities. These pauses in breathing while sleeping will have a great impact on your physiological responses that cause your sleeping heart rate to act up.
Symptoms to watch out for
Constant headaches in the morning, extreme sleepiness during the daytime and snoring are common for OSA affected patients. All these factors that cause disordered and fragmented sleep patterns have a significant impact on the sleeping heart rate. These conditions are a sure recipe for the entire day to be disturbed along with the irregular sleeping cycles.
Heart patients, and especially those who have suffered heart attacks may be at risk of experiencing abnormalities in their sleeping heart rate. Congestive heart failure sufferers are similarly prone to problems with their sleeping heart rate. Those who have extreme night time fluctuations in their heart rate will need the expert care of a doctor. They commonly require treatment with proper medication or the use of a pacemaker.
So what do we gain by knowing these facts about sleeping heart rate? For people without much physical illnesses, there is no need for alarm. But if you suffer from any of the illnesses mentioned above, it is imperative that you check your sleeping heart rate and consult with your physician or cardiologist regarding the appropriate steps to take.
At home device for monitoring your sleeping heart rate
One simple way to track your sleep patterns is to use a fitness tracker, which will not only track your sleep but monitor your heart by using advanced sensors called actigraphy and bioimpedance. And while these type of trackers may not be as accurate as the tools your doctor would use, a fitness tracker is a valuable and inexpensive tool that you can use to get an overview of your sleeping heart rate and other health data.