During my 6 year battle with an anxiety disorder I remember taking multiple tests like a stress test, ecg, blood tests, holter monitor and more all because of one frightening and annoying symptom of anxiety… heart pounding during sleep time. These pounding heart sensations used to keep me up for hours and hours at night during my anxiety disorder and sometimes I would completely give up on trying to sleep, and just stay up all night (which would make my symptoms of anxiety worse in the morning and lead to insomnia). What a nightmare, on most days I would listen in and hear the bed rattle due to my pounding heart, during baths I would eagerly watch the waves of water flow as I kept track of each and every heartbeat just in case my worst fears came true. My question though was why? I looked at the facts and I was a pretty healthy guy who was playing professional tennis at the time, watched what I put in my body, and even began meditation, so how come this worrying symptom of anxiety was always present during times where I was stationary and things were quiet? This was my time to give back to myself and work on overcoming my anxious mind, but this threat to my physical health (which is what I thought it was) didn’t give me that relaxing time to myself I craved and needed so badly at night.
I realized that there are a few causes for this pounding heart symptom of anxiety:
1) Lack of sleep
2) Being under extra stress then usual
3) Stimulants (coffee, tea, soda)
4) Hyperthyroidism (If you suspect this get the tests mentioned earlier done)
5) Panic Disorder
6) High blood pressure
7) Mitral Valve prolapse (when one or both of the hearts valves do not close properly upon contraction)
How can I get over this increasingly worrying symptom of anxiety you may be asking?
First thing is if you’ve done the tests mentioned then there is no need for another doctors opinion, you are well and will not have a heart attack because of a pounding heart. But that being said, here are 3 things that worked very well for me to give me the relief I needed in order to get a good nights sleep:
#1) Accept it and turn your focus to your breathing (find a slow and steady rythym and stick with it)
#2) Sleep on your right side.
#3) If you can’t get your mind off of this pounding heart sensation caused by anxiety, get out of bed and distract yourself in a productive way so that you can stop the cycle of worrying (something not to stimulating like reading works best). Go back to bed once you feel a bit more tired and sleepy.
Remember that a heart palpitation can be felt in the chest, throat or neck. Knowing this information alone kept me from the constant what if questions I would ask myself in fear of a health concern. Remember that heart palpitations are usually not serious at all, so sleep well knowing you are fine and this is just another symptom of anxiety that is extremely common.