Your heart rate is one of the body’s most essential biomarkers, and can often be a key indicator of your health levels. Coincidentally, it can also be one of the easiest to measure.
So, should you measure your heart rate and begin parading your relatively “normal” scores as a testament to your bill of health? The reality surrounding your heart rate and what it implies is significantly more nuanced than that.
First off, when the importance of heart rate of overall well being comes up in conversation, the discussion often centers around improving your maximum heart rate (the typical recommendation is through exercise).
Your maximum heart rate indicates how fast your heart is beating when you face your highest levels of stress or exertion. This marker is one of the critical determinants of how much oxygen you can consume when your body is at the highest need—your aerobic capacity. Several studies show a strong relationship between higher aerobic capacity levels and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks. So, the focus on the maximum heart rate is not unwarranted.
However, your heart rate when you’re sleeping or at rest can be equally as important.
What is Your Sleeping Heart Rate? (Why it Matters)
Your heart rate at rest or during sleep measures how fast your heart beats in this state. A good measure of this biomarker is how many heartbeats you record per minute at a relatively passive time, such as immediately you rise before you even get out of bed.
The resting heart rate (RHR) is of cardinal significance to health. This figure indicates how much exertion your heart muscles have to undertake to maintain blood supply and keep a steady heartbeat.
Hence, with sleeping heart rate — unlike with maximum heart rate — lower scores are better.
A lower resting heart rate indicates that your heart, heart muscles, and other related circulatory mechanisms are in prime condition. Lower RHR means they don’t have to overexert themselves to maintain proper cardiovascular function.
Consequently, the closeness of your resting heart rate to average can often be a valid predictor of your risk factor for heart disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
What then, is the perfect resting heart rate? Like with most physiological metrics, it depends.
According to the American Heart Association, barring any underlying medical conditions, the reasonable resting heart rate for most people should fall between 60-100 beats per minute, with healthier people often falling on the lower end of that range.
However, this broad range does not tell the whole story.
Depending on how healthy you are and how much exercise you partake in weekly, your regular resting heart rate may fall lower than this range, even reaching the low 40s.
Furthermore, your resting heart rate may vary considerably depending on a host of external factors, including the temperature of your environment, the humidity, and elevation, your hydration factors. Internal factors like your heart rate variability and hormonal influences, as well as your levels of anxiety and stress, can also affect your baseline.
Average Sleeping Heart Rate by Age
The resting heart rate for most healthy adults should fall between the 60-100 beat per minute range, with the scores closer to 60bpm than a 100.
We highlighted the term “adults” because, for children, it is a whole different ball game.
Kids post relatively higher heart rate figures during the early stages of their development, including those for resting heart rate. However, these figures gradually begin to slow down until they reach adolescence, by which their RHR would have typically normalized to the 60-100bpm range.
Consequently, your age is one of the most substantial factors influencing what healthcare practitioners consider the “normal” sleeping heart rate for you.
Based on data from the National Institutes of Health, here is a list of the typical sleeping heart rate by age.
|Age Group||Normal Resting Heart Rate (bpm)|
|1 month old or less||70-190|
|Over 10 years||60-100|
Note: Seasoned athletes and other people that regularly participate in rigorous exercises and tasks typically post low RHR scores of around 40-60bpm. Although these figures fall below the recommended “normal rate,” in well-trained athletes, this is a sign of good health.
In the early stages of their development, healthy children typically have significantly higher heart rates, even at rest.
This significant skewing from the mean stems from the fact that babies (under the age of 2) have considerably higher rates of metabolism, which places more strain on the heart and warrants a faster bpm and a more active circulatory system.
Children need significantly more metabolism to match the substantial energy requirement of early growth. Plus, the adipose tissue (body fat) in infants posts considerably higher amounts of metabolic activity than those in older children and adults.
However, as they age, the RHR in children begin to normalize as their metabolic rate slows. By age 10, most kids will have an average sleeping heart rate of around 60-10—a range that holds for the rest of their life, provided they remain relatively healthy.
Low Resting Heart Rate
How to Check Your Heart Rate at Rest
To check your resting heart rate, first ensure that you are at rest. One of the best times to take this measurement is immediately after you wake up from a night of rejuvenating sleep. For best results, you should run a test before your first bite or coffee, and even before you leave the bed.
To measure your sleeping heart rate manually:
- Using the tips of your fingers, locate your pulse. You can find your pulse on the inside of your wrist or the side of your Adam’s apple
- With your index and middle fingers, lightly press on the blood vessels to get a more precise read
- Using a timer, count the number of beats that occur within 10 seconds and multiply that figure by 6 to get your resting heart rate in beats per minute
Improving Your Resting Heart Rate Score
If you have an elevated RHR, one of the best things you can do for your heart is to incorporate more cardiovascular exercises into your lifestyle.
Several research studies show a conclusive link between a high resting heart rate and a lower level of physical fitness. The RHR in most people also increases with body weight, and obese people have a significantly higher resting heart rate than the general population.
Hence, adopting a more fitness-oriented lifestyle and losing some weight are some of the best tactics for getting your RHR in control.
Adopting cardiovascular exercises like cycling, swimming, and walking into your daily routine can also strengthen your heart, improve your overall heart health, and reduce your risk of heart disease and other adverse cardiovascular events.
Note: Remember to hydrate properly and get enough sleep. Dehydration and sleep deprivation are two factors that can cause a consistent spike in your resting heart rate, even if you maintain optimal fitness levels.
Factors that can Affect Your Sleeping Heart Rate Negatively
Some factors that can lead to a higher resting heart rate include:
- Pre-existing heart conditions
- Hormonal imbalances
- Obesity and higher body weight
- Low levels of fitness
- The side effect of some medication
- Psychological factors like stress and anxiety
- Overuse of alcohol, caffeine, or other stimulants
- Sleep deprivation