The relationships between ventricular premature depolarizations (VPDs) and heart rate (HR) were determined in 14 patients with ventricular arrhythmias and the influence of these relationships on the diurnal variability of ventricular arrhythmias was evaluated. The influence of sleep state, wakefulness, and level of activity on the frequency of VPDs was also studied. Subjects completed 48-72 h of ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring and nocturnal sleep recordings. Plots of VPD frequency vs. HR were examined and subjects were categorized as HR-dependent if they manifested log-linear increase in VPDs with increasing HR and as HR-independent if no relation between VPD frequency and HR was detected. Sleep suppression of VPDs was observed in the HR-dependent group (p less than 0.05). The reduction in VPD frequency correlated with the reduction in HR and was independent of sleep state or wakefulness. No change in VPD frequency was observed during wakefulness, rapid eye movement sleep, or non-rapid-eye-movement sleep in the HR-independent group. The influence of level of activity on ventricular arrhythmia frequency was also assessed in seven subjects. Any decreases in VPD frequency observed during inactivity were associated with a decrease in HR. These observations suggest that HR is a major determinant of the diurnal variation of VPD frequency in a subset of patients with frequent VPDs.