The development of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring devices and the beat-by-beat measurement of heart rate have enabled it to be established that there are circadian rhythms in heart rate and blood pressure in subjects living normally. Investigations of these variables have led to quantification of their fall at night, and rapid rise on awakening and becoming active in the morning. These changes are of particular interest insofar as abnormalities in them are associated with cardiovascular problems and morbidity in patients and also act as risk factors in otherwise healthy individuals. It has also been shown that there are many other variables of the cardiovascular system. The causes of the circadian rhythms in heart rate and blood pressure are outlined, with particular stress upon the role of the autonomic nervous system, as assessed from low- and high-frequency components of the variation in heart rate measured beat-by-beat. Activity increases blood pressure, but there is evidence that this "reactivity" varies with time of day, and this also might be related to cardiovascular morbidity. Based upon data from several sources, including night work, resting subjects and bed-ridden patients, it is concluded that the contribution of the "body clock" to producing the circadian rhythm in heart rate and blood pressure is relatively small. A bias towards an exogenous cause applies also to most other circadian rhythms in the cardiovascular system. Knowledge of circadian rhythmicity in cardiovascular system, together with an understanding of its causes, provides a rationale for advice to reduce cardiovascular risk and to assess the efficacy of therapies.