Changes in heart rate before and throughout episodes of ST-segment depression were recorded during ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring in five patients with daytime and nocturnal resting angina and six patients with daytime angina only, who all had severe obstructive coronary disease. In 16 of 17 nocturnal episodes and in all the daytime episodes the heart rate increased before the onset of ST-segment depression. There were no significant differences in the sequence and magnitude of changes in daytime, nocturnal, painful, or painless episodes. The maximum heart rate during individual episodes preceded the maximum ST-segment depression by a mean 80.7 s and in the majority of episodes the heart rate returned to baseline before the ST segment. Thus, in severe coronary artery disease the mechanisms producing nocturnal resting ischaemia were apparently similar to those during daytime exertion; increased myocardial oxygen demand not coronary spasm seemed responsible for most of the episodes of nocturnal ischaemia.