Have you ever woken up from an intense dream to the feeling that your heart is beating out of your chest? It might seem strange, but the body will react to wherever the mind takes it.
Throughout the day, you can feel your heart rate fluctuate. You may notice it pick up when you’re out for a walk or are having a disagreement with a loved one. On the other hand, you may see it drop right down when you’re on the sofa relaxing.
The number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re sitting down relaxing is called your resting heart rate. For most adults, it’s about 60 – 100 beats per minute. The second you stand up and move, it increases. It goes even higher when you’re exercising or experiencing intense emotions.
Your heart doesn’t stop beating when you sleep, and sleep can play a significant role in heart health. But how it beats during sleep is mainly dependent on the stage of sleep you’re in.
People who are sleep deprived do not have as much variability in their heart rate as those who get enough. This puts additional stress on the heart, which may lead to problems.
During sleep, most of the body processes slow down.
Within about five minutes of falling asleep, your body will reach its resting heart rate. This is called “light sleep,” and in this phase, your temperature will drop and muscles relax. You’ll be in and out of this phase for about half of the night.
Next, you’ll enter a phase of deep sleep. This is where blood pressure falls, and heart rate slows down to roughly 20 to 30 percent below your resting heart rate.
Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep, follows. Heart rate is a little trickier here because it reacts to your dreams. If you’re being active or experience an intense emotion like fear, it will go up just as it would during waking hours.
Ideally, you want to give your heart a break during sleep. You can’t control your dreams, but you can control sleep hygiene and how you spend your waking hours. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle with exercise and diet can help.
These measures can lower your resting heart rate by making blood flow more efficient. The easier blood moves through your arteries, the less hard it has to work.
Sleep plays a role in heart health, and hopefully, now you have a better understanding of why!