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Have you ever woken up after an eight-hour night of sleep, only to still feel tired? We all have nights where we can’t sleep, whether it’s due to insomnia, hormonal changes, exercising or eating too late, or feeling anxious and restless. Not being able to sleep from time to time is an occasional occurrence for most people, but one that doesn’t cause them much trouble.

On the other hand, there are people who are tired all the time. Being constantly sleepy isn’t normal, and it could be a symptom of a more serious condition. If you’re always sleepy no matter how much sleep you get, here’s what could be causing you trouble — and how to get back to sleeping soundly.

Why Am I Always Sleepy No Matter How Much Sleep I Get?

Everyone deserves to get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic for people who feel tired all the time. It can be especially frustrating for people who experience tiredness and low energy levels on a daily basis, even when they go to bed early and try to sleep all throughout the night.

The first thing to look at is the amount of sleep you get each night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Yet, if someone is physically active throughout the day or has additional medical conditions, this can vary.

Sleep problems can also be a result of over-reliance on sleep medications, including synthetic pills as well as more natural approaches like melatonin or valerian. While natural remedies may be safer and have fewer side effects, relying on any type of medication to help you sleep can mask underlying sleep problems.

It may help to invest in a sleep tracker to better understand your sleep patterns during the night. A sleep tracker, like Biostrap, can help you understand how much time you spend in deep or light sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up during the night, whether you snore or move a lot, and more. Such sleep tracker data can provide valuable insights into how much quality sleep you’re getting, and whether or not it’s time to introduce a lifestyle change.

Sleep Disorders and Persistent Tiredness

Quality sleep is essential for optimal recovery and performance, yet many people struggle with it. Are you constantly asking yourself, “Why am I tired all the time?” If so, it might be time to explore additional causes of your tiredness that may be beyond your control. Here’s a look at sleep disorders and medical conditions that may be affecting your quality of sleep and contributing to chronic tiredness.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is one of the most common medical conditions causing chronic sleepiness. Specifically, obstructive sleep apnea “occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) cannot only be serious, but it is the most common form of sleep apnea yet it’s often left undiagnosed.

According to a study published in Science Direct, “OSA affects approximately 20% of US adults, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed.”

The two main symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Sleep apnea is also a common reason why people who maintain a consistent, healthy bedtime routine still feel tired the next day. High blood pressure, being overweight, smoking, diabetes, and narrowed airways are all symptoms of sleep apnea.

One helpful solution for sleep apnea is a treatment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This is simply a face or nasal mask that offers a consistent stream of airflow into the nasal passages, keeping the airway open. This is a non-invasive treatment and can help you improve the quality of your sleep. Meanwhile, the common medical advice for overweight people with sleep apnea is to engage in lifestyle factors that promote weight loss.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When you feel like you’re never getting enough sleep even though you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, it could be due to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This condition causes persistent daytime sleepiness regardless of nighttime sleep patterns. It can be exacerbated by intense physical activity and intellectual stimulation. In addition to causing fatigue, it causes loss of memory, sore throat, unexplained muscle and joint pain, and frequent headaches.

While the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown, according to the Mayo Clinic, it can be triggered by a variety of factors. These include viral infections, such as herpes and epstein-barr virus. It is also commonly associated with immune system problems and autoimmune disorders. Working with a therapist to take back control of your life and optimize your daily routines can help you address many of the CFS symptoms.

Additionally, a physical therapist can help you reduce your hypersensitivity to exercise and gradually begin helping you get active, which can stimulate blood flow, boost endorphins, and support higher energy levels.

Other Health Conditions Associated With Tiredness

The quality of your sleep is largely impacted by your circadian rhythm. Also known as your sleep-wake cycle, the circadian rhythm dictates influences when you will feel sleepy and when you will be more alert.

Circadian rhythm disorders, however, can disrupt these sleep patterns and create an inconsistent sleep cycle. People’s circadian rhythm can be disrupted by inconsistent sleep schedules, especially for those engaging in shift work and those who work late into the night.

Iron deficiencies are another common reason why people are always sleepy. In fact, feeling very tired is one of the most common symptoms of an iron deficiency. “This happens because your body needs iron to make a protein called hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygen around the body,” registered dietician Mary Jane Brown said in a Healthline interview.

Additional symptoms of iron deficiency include paleness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and heart palpitations. Iron deficiencies can be caused by poor nutrition, pregnancy, and inflammatory bowel disease. The good news is that most iron deficiencies are easy to address by increasing your iron intake and maintaining a balanced diet.

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Improving Your Sleep Hygiene

Poor sleep is often a side effect of poor sleep hygiene. For example, a lot of people struggle to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, which makes it hard for their body to adjust during the day. Consuming alcohol on weeknights, exercising too late in the day, using the bedroom for work, and staying on screens while in bed are a few examples of poor sleep hygiene.

Going to bed at the same time each night and setting your alarm clock for the same time each morning can create consistency in your sleep schedule and thus improve your quality of sleep.

This can get your circadian rhythm back on track. Such consistency around sleep is also a great way to train your body when to get tired in the evenings and when to wake up feeling alert. 

Removing electronics from the bedroom and staying away from screens before bed is another way to prepare your body for sleep.

Mental Health Management

Mental health is another pillar to consider when you constantly feel tired. Anxiety and stress are two common, yet often overlooked causes of fatigue. This is in part because stress may elevate cortisol levels, which in turn can disrupt a person’s ability to achieve good sleep quality.

Studies show that reducing cortisol levels and balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can greatly improve sleep disturbances and overall sleep quality. The HPA axis is the body’s system for regulation, helping an individual to stay safe in response to constantly changing environments. This mechanism plays an important role in activating the body’s sympathetic nervous system (flight-or-fight mode), potentially causing further stress.

Taking care of your mental health can help the HPA axis to stay in balance and regulate cortisol levels so that your sleep quality won’t suffer the consequences. Regular stress management practices such as meditation, yoga, creative expression, and physical activity have all been found to help improve sleep and overall well-being, and balance the nervous system.

So, Why Am I Always Tired?

The quality of sleep you get matters. Whether you’re falling asleep at work or waking up groggy every day, it’s important to understand why you’re always tired.

If you feel like you’re sleeping for ample time throughout the night, your tiredness may be due to a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. It could also be related to chronic fatigue syndrome or an iron deficiency. Seeking out professional medical advice can help you get to the bottom of your persistent tiredness, so you can get back to feeling your best and stop losing sleep over it.

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What is it?

Active heart rate is the rate at which the heart beats during activity or exercise. Heart rate is a highly responsive physiological measure. It is important to note that heart rate is a response variable to many factors. Therefore, the purpose of measuring heart rate is to measure the body’s physiological reaction to the work being performed.

How is it measured?

There are many ways to measure heart rate during physical activity, but some are more reliable than others. The typical ‘gold standard’ method is through electrocardiography, whether 12-lead or single-lead.

Additionally, photoplethysmography, or PPG, can be used to measure pulse waves to obtain heart rate. Due to the nature of different wavelengths utilized during PPG measurements, green light LED has been shown to be best at detecting pulse waveforms during exercise. Red and infrared light are motion intolerant and are not recommended for active heart rate monitoring.

The Biostrap ecosystem contains both a chest-worn ECG-based heart rate monitor as well as a green light PPG sensor worn on the arm. The Biostrap activity HRMs are recommended for use during activity to obtain proper active heart rate. The Biostrap EVO device, equipped with red and infrared PPG does not record during exercise due to motion artifacts; therefore, it’s best utilized for monitoring sleep and recovery metrics captured overnight.

Correlation with health

The use of heart rate during activity and exercise is not recommended for or capable of diagnosing medical conditions. However, heart rate during activity and exercise can provide a lot of information about heart health and performance.

Typically, when examining individuals during exercise, a lower heart rate at an equivalent workload suggests increased cardiovascular health.

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Normal Values

In theory, any value existing between resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, or MHR, are ‘typical’ values for exercising. MHR is considered the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

To roughly calculate your individual MHR, perform the following equation: 220 minus your age.

Interpreting Trends

In general, performing the same task, an individuals’ heart rate should be lower after cardiovascular fitness adaptations.

However, many variables can influence heart rate during exercise that may alter this trend. Heat, emotional stress, caffeine consumption, movement economy, and dehydration are just some of the factors that can influence day-to-day variation in exercise heart rate at the same workload. Cardiovascular adaptations may decrease the reactivity of heart rate to some of these influences, so a trend toward a lower heart rate should still be observed over time.

Note, this should not be confused with active heart rate during a single exercise bout. Heart rate should remain proportional to intensity, and thus depends on the workload applied to the activity.

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Have you ever found yourself falling asleep only to suddenly wake up because your body twitches? Maybe it feels like a jerking contraction you can’t control, as if your body convulses all at once. If you’ve ever encountered this strange sensation, then you’ve experienced what’s referred to as a hypnic jerk.

Also known as hypnagogic jerks or sleep twitches, a hypnic jerk is an involuntary twitch that occurs as your body transitions from being awake to falling asleep. And though they may seem foreign in nature, research suggests that 60-70% of people experience sporadic hypnic jerks from time to time.

What Is a Hypnic Jerk?

Let’s start with a few of the basics. By definition, hypnic jerks (a.k.a. sleep starts, hypnagogic jerks, or myoclonic jerks) are nothing more than your body twitching as it transitions into the first stages of sleep. Named for the transitional period between being fully awake and falling asleep, the hypnic jerk is a harmless condition experienced by many.

Believe it or not, a hypnic jerk is very similar in nature to a common hiccup. Both a hiccup and a hypnic jerk are considered an involuntary muscle twitch known as a myoclonus.

Hypnic Jerk Symptoms

Because a hypnic jerk isn’t a disorder, it’s important to note that any symptoms you may experience aren’t cause for concern. Instead these symptoms are simply things you might experience while transitioning into a state of sleep. They include:

  • Falling sensations
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Jerking or rapid limb movements
  • ​Fast breathing
  • Dreams or hallucinations that lead to a startle

What Causes a Hypnic Jerk?

Unfortunately researchers haven’t been able to uncover exactly why the hypnic jerk occurs because both healthy and unhealthy people experience it. Theories, however, do exist that offer plausible causes.

Sleep Deprivation

As is the case with so many sleep disorders, some believe the hypnic jerk occurs due to poor sleep habits or sleep disturbances. For this reason, it’s pertinent that you develop a healthy sleep routine by sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Consider utilizing a sleep tracker to monitor your sleep patterns and gain a better understanding of your sleep.


Exercising each day is important no matter your current state of health. However, some believe exercising before bed may cause your brain and muscles to remain active as you try to fall asleep. This may lead to side effects that include sweating, jerking, or frequent awakenings throughout the night.


Anxious thoughts and emotional stress can keep you tossing and turning at night when all you want to do is sleep. Because sleep is a healing period for both the mind and body, it’s quite possible that stress is causing your muscles to alert your body, even as it drifts off to sleep. Such alerts can occur in the form of twitches and jerks.


Nothing stops your body from falling asleep quite like stimulants do. Be it caffeine, nicotine, or any other stimulant, these substances can negatively impact your body’s ability to fall asleep and to reach deeper stages of sleep, like rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or slow-wave deep sleep.

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Some research suggests the hypnic jerk is simply an evolutionary trait passed on to us by our ancestors from thousands of years ago. This may be the case when you consider that primitive humans slept in trees and, therefore, needed to ensure they wouldn’t wake up only after falling to the ground. The hypnic jerk may have once served us as an alert to readjust our sleeping positions while dozing in branches high above.

Who Experiences Hypnic Jerks?

While hypnic jerks can affect everyone, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that adults are far more likely than children to experience hypnic jerks. The reason for this pertains to specific factors that affect adults rather than children, such as stimulant intake, emotional stress, and intense bouts of exercise. Hypnic jerks may still occur in children, but they are far less common.

Hypnic Jerk Treatments

Because the hypnic jerk isn’t considered uncommon or unhealthy, prevention is more adequate to stop it from happening in the first place. Follow the steps below that aim to help you transition into sleep and sleep soundly throughout the night.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene is nothing more than a fancy term for healthy sleeping habits. In order to sleep better, you first need to provide your body with a few basic essentials. These include exercising regularly, limiting exposure to digital screens a couple of hours before bed, avoiding bedtime snacks, and steering clear of stimulants that can keep you awake. Temperature also plays an important role, so make sure to check our our article on The Best Temperature for Sleep

Avoid Stimulants: Stimulants act as powerful shots of energy that flood your brain and body and keep you going. As enticing as that may sound at two o’clock in the afternoon when you grow drowsy, it does no good for your brain later in the night. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or other stimulants beyond midday, as these are likely to keep your physiology from being able to wind down when it’s time to sleep. And remember that while alcohol or wine may make you drowsy before bed, chances are they’ll disrupt your sleep later in the night. If you track your sleep with a Biostrap’s wrist-worn device, you may notice changes in your sleep patterns as well as biometrics, such as heart and heart rate variability.

Exercise Timing: While some of us enjoy being productive at night rather than during the day, do your best to complete any intense workouts by mid-afternoon. And if this isn’t possible, focus on low-intensity exercise in the evening, such as a walk after dinner, that won’t keep your heart racing into the night.

Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises are an effective way of slowing down your heart rate, activating your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, and getting a restful night’s sleep. Consider utilizing a breathing technique known as “box breathing” that’s taught to Navy Seals. This technique aims to slow your heart rate and reduce stress by performing a specific breathing cycle for a short period of time: inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4. Repeat this four times.

As unusual as the hypnic jerk may seem, following these simple tips will reduce the likelihood that hypnic jerks will disrupt your slumber. If your experience with hypnic jerks doesn’t improve after adopting these preventative options, consider talking with a licensed health clinician to discuss your options.

Living With Hypnic Jerks

While the hypnic jerk may come across as an unhealthy or unnatural occurrence, in truth, it’s a completely normal experience that many of us know well.

If your experience with hypnic jerks has you concerned or is keeping you awake, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor or a licensed healthcare provider to discuss your treatment options.

If you find yourself experiencing hypnic jerks regularly, consider making an appointment with your doctor as this may be a symptom of poor sleep patterns or lingering stressors.

At the end of the day, remember that hypnagogic jerks aren’t uncommon, nor are they a disorder. Take some time to relax before bed, treat your body well, and you will reduce the likelihood that you’ll wake due to an unforeseen twitch.

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What do caffeine, lion’s mane mushroom, and green tea have in common?

They’re all sources of natural nootropics, or cognitive enhancers, used for brain health. While they may be new to many of us, nootropics have been used in both Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic healing for thousands of years.

Whether it’s boosting brain power before a big test or warding off memory loss in old age, people use nootropics for an array of personal and professional reasons. Regardless of what people use nootropics for, everyone’s looking at the same goal: to get more done and become more efficient in a shorter amount of time.

This demand for productivity has increased sales of both natural and synthetic nootropics across the globe. And in a market that’s poised to reach $6.29 billion by 2028, according to Verified Market Research, you might just be wondering what nootropics can do for you. Here’s what you need to know about naturally-sourced nootropics that can speed up your smarts.

What Are Natural Nootropics?

Nootropics are any compounds, supplements, or drugs designed to improve cognitive function. They’re used by people all over the world to improve intelligence, creativity, and motivation. In addition to supercharging productivity, nootropics can make you smarter and less stressed, holistic health practitioner Shari Auth told The Thirty.

“Nootropics offer a range of cognitive benefits, including faster reaction time, increased alertness, improved memory, and decreased mental fatigue and fog. Some nootropics are also adaptogenic, meaning they help your body manage stress,” Auth added.

Since there are so many medicines, plants, and substances that offer these benefits, there remains a debate about what is and isn’t a nootropic. Psychologist and chemist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea was one of the first scientists who researched nootropics and attempted to define a number of features that would classify as such. According to his definition, a true nootropic may:

– Improve learning and short-term memory retention
– Increase resilience to stress hormones and trauma
– Protect brain cells and improve brain bioactivity
– Promote intercellular communication

Have no side effects similar to other neuro-psychotropic drugs

Supplementing With Natural Nootropics

While Nootropics can have many benefits for brain health, they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for healthy habits. Getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet and managing stress are fundamental for achieving optimal cognitive performance, Chris D’Adamo, PhD, at the University of Maryland, told WebMD. Once a person incorporates these changes into their life, nootropics can serve as an additional bonus for improving mental sharpness, reducing mental fatigue as well as the chances for age-related cognitive decline. 

There are a wide range of brain boosters available, but some come with safety concerns and side effects. That’s why it’s so important to know what to look for when starting a search for nootropic supplements. The first distinction to make is between synthetic and natural nootropics.

Synthetic Nootropics

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Pills spilling out of pill bottle on white background

Synthetic nootropics are manmade pills designed to boost cognitive functioning using chemical ingredients. So called “smart drugs”, such as Modafinil, Racetams, Adrafinil, and Noopept fall into this category. These compounds do improve mental function, but many also come with side effects and potential long-term consequences.

Take Modafinil, for example. This drug for people with sleep disorders is becoming a particularly popular choice to boost alertness and energy. While the research on Modafinil remains scant, looking at how the drug works may offer insight into possible side effects down the road.

“Part of the way Modafinil works is by shifting the brain’s levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters; it’s not clear what effects these shifts may have on a person’s health in the long run,” as Markham Heid pointed out at TIME.

Common focus-enhancing pills like Ritalin and Adderall also classify as nootropics. These drugs are used widely both by ADHD patients and those without the condition — and both groups experience their negative effects. Aside from being addictive, Adderall and Ritalin have been linked to insomnia, hallucinations, seizures, heart trouble, and sudden death in healthy individuals.

Many proponents of Giurgea’s theory don’t classify these drugs as nootropics.

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Natural Nootropics

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Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine Nature Alternative

If the side effects of synthetic nootropics aren’t reason enough to avoid them, consider the abundance of natural nootropics found in the natural world. Plants and herbs offer a wide range of adaptogenic, or stress-relieving compounds that support increased focus and relaxation.

Natural nootropics are much safer than synthetic forms because, in their purest version, they don’t produce side effects similar to other neuro-psychotropic drugs. Look for high-quality nootropic herbs that are standardized or that feature certain trademarks or labels, such as GMP, which denotes good manufacturing practices. Also look for Nootropics without artificial ingredients or common allergens. Manufacturers concerned with safety will clearly define the presence of ingredients and allergens, such as gluten, soy, and dairy.

Here’s a look at the best natural nootropics, and how they support the mind and body.

Green Tea and L-Theanine

Green tea is a natural source of L-theanine, a common and efficient nootropic. Multiple studies have shown L-theanine to increase attention performance, improve sleep, boost reaction time, and promote relaxation. It could also be therapeutic for patients who suffer from high anxiety. These benefits are linked to L-theanine’s neuroprotective effects, meaning it can restore and regenerate nerve cells in multiple ways.

Bacopa Monnieri

Brahmi, or Bacopa monnieri, is a fundamental herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It thrives in wet, tropical environments and can survive well under water. Similar to many other natural nootropics, the plant, its extract as well as isolated bacosides are known to support mental performance while reducing stress and having anti-inflammatory properties as well. Another perk of supplementing with Bacopa Monnieri is that it contains adaptogens, which fight off the free radicals and oxidative stress that’re linked to many modern lifestyle diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


Ginseng is one of the oldest and most popular adaptogenic herbs. Stemming from traditional Chinese medicine, it’s a long, light brown root with green leaves and a bitter flavor. The two most popular varieties are American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian (Panax ginseng), both of which have a positive effect on the immune system.

Ginseng can support healthy blood sugar levels and increased concentration may help with menopause, cancer, blood pressure, and heart disease. Since ginseng is a powerful herb, it has the ability to interact with other drugs and may not be a good choice for people taking certain medications, so please consult with your doctor before taking Ginseng as a supplement.

Rhodiola Rosea

Also known as rosenroot, arctic root, or golden root, rhodiola rosea is a mountain herb that grows in cold climates. It contains over 140 active ingredients and has both antidepressive and anti-fatigue effects and is also used to treat anxiety in Russia and Scandinavia. To test its antidepressive effects, a study compared rhodiola to the antidepressant medication Zoloft that’s active ingredient is sertraline. Findings showed that, while the chemical drug had a greater effect on reducing overall symptoms of depression, the herb was easier to tolerate because it was generally without side effects.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushroom is a shaggy white mushroom that can be consumed cooked, raw, dried, or in tea form for improved brain function. While there’s no definitive report linking lion’s mane to Alzheimer’s disease prevention, a study on mice has shown the mushroom to have neuroprotective impact on treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases. These are often a cause of chronic inflammation, cell death, and brain damage in patients. More research is needed to see if the mushroom has the same effect in humans.

Ginkgo Biloba

Lush and leafy, ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species. It’s a popular natural nootropic that may have a positive effect on cognitive function, anxiety and stress management. Additionally, studies have shown the use of the herb to reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Gingko may play a role in improving blood flow, which can support artery health and reduce the chance of stroke. Other studies demonstrate the positive impacts of Gingko on eye health. More research is warranted, but preliminary findings suggest that supplementing with ginkgo biloba may be beneficial in treating age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.


The body only makes a very small amount of choline in the liver; however, it isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of humans. Therefore, we must get it from our diet or from a choline supplement. Choline is often grouped with B vitamins due to its essential role in regulating liver function, metabolism, brain development, and muscle movement. While it’s rare to be deficient in choline, certain groups of people may be more at risk. These include endurance athletes, post menopausal women, pregnant women and people who consume high amounts of alcohol.


Piracetam is a natural nootropic that, like many others, is used for cognitive enhancement. It has been found that Piracetam may help working memory, intellectual function, learning, and concentration. Studies have also shown that Piracetam enhances ATP production, but when it comes to treating cognitive decline, the right dosage is key. A study of older adults showed significant difference in cognition improvement with a dosage of 1,600 mg three times per day. However, there was no difference in cognition with patients who received 800 mg three times per day.

Natural Nootropics for Health

An increased interest in brain health and productivity has given rise to a variety of synthetic supplements, but not all of these compounds are without concern. Since many synthetic nootropics may have side effects, natural nootropics are a much healthier and safer alternative.

Whether it’s improving mental performance, reducing the risk of disease, or raising your resilience against stress, natural nootropics offer a wide range of benefits for overall well-being and cognitive fitness. Understanding how to incorporate these supplements into your life can help you better understand your health and how to optimize it.

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a common affliction which affects as much as 10% of our population, particularly those middle-aged or older. Women are also more prone to RLS, although it can be found amongst men and younger people as well.

Often caused by a combination of mental and physical factors, RLS can be treated at home and without a doctor’s care, and with treatment typically involving some monitoring and a few simple lifestyle changes.

However, if you do suffer from it, not only can it be uncomfortable—particularly while in confined spaces—it can also lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

Here is what you need to know about RLS, its effects on us, and how you can best mitigate its effects.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome is can best be described as an unpleasant twitching, cramping, or tickling sensation in the leg muscles which urges the sufferer to move to seek relief.

So far as causes for these symptoms, there are both mental and physical explanations for why they occur, which we will go over after helping you understand just what RLS is.

First, there are 2-types of RLS: Primary (AKA Idiopathic), and Secondary. There is also a similar disorder which can lead to RLS called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) in which limbs (most often legs) twitch or spasm uncontrollably during sleep. However, for now, let’s consider the 2-types of RLS:

  • Primary, or Idiopathic RLS—This is the most common type of RLS, although it is without a known cause, other than that it is likely inherited. It usually starts in childhood and is lifelong, with symptoms typically worsening with age.
  • Secondary RLS—With secondary RLS, onset is sudden, and usually due to a disease, medication, or other condition. It usually starts in the mid-forties, and symptoms don’t worsen with age. Symptoms are, however, usually more severe, and can be caused by arthritis, pregnancy, diabetes, kidney disease, iron deficiency, certain medications, or other causes.

It should also be noted that while RLMD is different than RLS, symptoms of it occur in around 80% of patients with RLS. Both also affect sleep by making it hard to fall asleep, and hard to remain asleep due to recurring episodes throughout the night. It is for these reasons that both are classified as sleep disorders which can lead to other problems due to lack of sleep, such as:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Depleted immune system
  • Weight gain
  • Accident proneness
  • High blood pressure

While symptoms of idiopathic RLS often get worse with age, some sufferers may go long periods of time without symptoms. However, some symptoms of secondary RLS may be temporary, such as with pregnancy, passing conditions, illness, or medications.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

First, we need to point out that the word “idiopathic” literally means “…any disease with an unknown cause of apparently spontaneous origin,” per Wikipedia. Clearly, this indicates that for primary RLS sufferers, there is no known source of their condition.

That said, it should also be noted that in nearly half of all primary RLS cases, there is a family history of the affliction, which indicates that genetics may be a primary cause.

However, for those suffering from secondary RLS, there is usually a cause and effect which can be identified. These causes can include:

  • Consumption of alcohol—Even though a few drinks may help you fall asleep, alcohol interrupts the deep, slow-wave delta sleep patterns you need for full, rejuvenating sleep. Not only that, it also has been purported to block the production of certain sleep chemicals in the brain which are responsible for maintaining circadian cycles, which leads to sleep interruptions throughout the night, and it can worsen breathing difficulties, such as with sleep apnea.

And, these factors are likely why alcohol often triggers RLS in sufferers, which makes avoiding alcohol before bed a good idea for RLS sufferers.

  • Certain medications—Medications such as sedating antihistamines and anti-nausea drugs can inhibit production of your brain’s dopamine, which in turn can lead to RLS. Other medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotic medications can cause an increase in your body’s serotonin production, which can also lead to RLS episodes in the night.

Fortunately, your doctor can usually adjust your dosage to a level where your RLS is more manageable, and in a worst-case scenario, many medications are either temporary, or have an alternative for sensitive users.

  • Pregnancy—Often attributed to a lack of iron, around 20% of all pregnant women experience RLS around the 3rd trimester. Your doctor can identify an iron deficiency through a simple blood test, and iron supplements or iron-rich foods are an easy addition to your diet.

Symptoms of RLS will also usually disappear with the end of pregnancy.

  • Chronic diseaseDiabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and kidney failure can also cause RLS. However, symptoms of RLS can often be resolved by treating the disease or medical condition.
  • Tobacco use—Amongst the MANY reasons to stop smoking or chewing tobacco is its connection with RLS. Not only are tobacco users damaging nearly every other aspect of their health through their habit, nicotine is a stimulant which disrupts sleep in much the same way as having coffee before bed can. This in turn can lead to RLS—not to mention breathing problems, bad breath, high blood pressure, cancer, and…well, you get the idea. Just stop already, okay?
  • Caffeine—While most of us understand that caffeine is a stimulant, we may not always know where it is lurking. And, as with other sleep-disrupting substances, caffeine consumption too late in the day, or from an unexpected source can lead to poor sleep and symptoms of RLS.

Remember that foods containing chocolate, some teas (even some “herbal” teas!), and many soft drinks can contain enough caffeine to keep you awake, and your legs restless during the night.

  • Stress—It may be your job, your situation, or any one of many other factors which is causing it, but the bottom line is, stress can lead to symptoms of RLS, along with poor sleep.

This is due to stress causing your adrenal glands to release cortisol—AKA, the stress hormone–which it does as a “fight or flight” response. This in turn helps you become mobilized and ready for action, or in other words, the opposite of what you need for a good night’s sleep!

While there are other possible causes of secondary RLS, these are some of the most prominent ones. As you can see, most are related to sleep disruption, meaning if you are suffering from RLS and cannot pinpoint the cause, look for reasons pertaining to your not sleeping well. These can be anything from a magnesium deficiency, to poor sleep hygiene in the sleep chamber.

Mitigating the Effects of RLS

Now that you have some understanding of RLS and its causes, it is time to go over how to manage your symptoms. Naturally, this means first determining the cause of your symptoms, as well as monitoring their effects.

For this, a device such as a Biostrap can be invaluable, since using one can help you track such numbers as Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Peripheral Capillary Oxygen Saturation (SpO2), both of which are key biomarkers in helping measure the quality of your sleep.

But why is this?

Simple. These biomarkers will help you to understand your sleep habits, as well as to show you the overall quality of sleep you are getting. From this, you can better measure improvements as you go along, as well as to show you what is—and is not—working in your treatments of RLS.

However, let’s start by going over some treatments for your primary and secondary RLS symptoms.

First, sleep hygiene is of key importance in getting a healthy night’s sleep, which in turn can help relieve your symptoms.

But just what is “sleep hygiene” anyway?

Simply put, good sleep hygiene is habits and practices which help to improve the quality of your sleep. These can include:

  • Getting some exercise—Daily exercise can help you fall asleep more easily and can also help you stay asleep through the night.

However, you should avoid vigorous exercise, especially within 3-hours of bedtime, since heavy exercise can have the opposite effect of light, aerobic exercise on your sleep. This is because when you do heavy weight training, high intensity interval training, or other forms of anaerobic exercise, your body is producing such stimulating hormones as norephedrine and cortisol, as well as adrenaline, which can remain in effect and keep you energized for hours after your workout.

Instead, try for 15-45 minutes of light to moderate intensity exercise each day, during which you can speak in full sentences without having to pause for breath. This can include walking, light running, swimming, or simply doing things like taking the stairs rather than the elevator during your day.

  • Keeping a consistent sleep/wake schedule—Establishing a consistent bedtime and adhering to it is an essential part of good sleep hygiene. This means not only putting down the remote and hitting the hay at the same time every night during the week, but on weekends and holidays as well (sorry!).

By going to bed and waking at the same time each night and morning, you can become a better and more efficient sleeper, which will lead to more sleep overall and a reduction in RLS symptoms.

  • Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and cool—Sleep environment is crucial for good sleep, and by keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and cool, you can help ensure that you are getting the best quality sleep you can.

Try to keep your bedroom at between 60-67-degrees Fahrenheit, and block out any light from outside the room, as well as avoid keeping any lights—even a small night light—off while you are sleeping.

If you live in a noisy, urban environment or have other outside noises which cannot be avoided, try earplugs, or sound-blocking headphones which can also provide soothing sounds or white noise.

  • Avoiding blue light screens and all electronic devices before bed—We live in an age where we are constantly either checking our phones, on our computers, or are being entertained by movies and television shows. However, electronic devices and their screens may be the root of your insomnia, since the blue light emitted from electronic screens can stop your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Try turning off all electronic devices a few hours before bed, and never watch TV while in bed!

By doing this, you can not only allow your body’s production of melatonin to be on schedule to help you get a fit night’s sleep, you also won’t be tempted to stay up and watch just one more episode of “Law and Order” before finally nodding off.

  • Avoiding naps during the day—While a nice afternoon nap may be a tempting way for you to hit your “refresh” button, it is not a good way to ensure a full amount of quality sleep each night.

This is because napping during the day can prevent you from being tired enough to easily fall asleep at night, which can then shorten the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) cycles necessary in good, productive sleep.

Plus, if you are doing a good job of adhering to your sleep schedule, you should be getting enough sleep that a nap isn’t as tempting!

  • Sleeping on a comfortable mattress, and with comfortable bedding—What you sleep on can make all the difference in how well you sleep, and it all starts with your mattress. Make sure it is the correct firmness for you, and you should never sleep on one which is too old or worn-out. The firmness rating should match your weight and sleeping type (i.e. side sleeper, back sleeper, etc.), and you should be able to rise after a full night’s sleep without aches or pains—or any groggy, unrested feeling.

Your pillow should also be firm and supportive, and preferably made from natural materials which breath well and remain cool. The stuffing should not bunch up and flatten, and if your pillow is worn out or flat, it is time to replace it without hesitation.

Your bedding should include enough blankets to keep you warm without overheating you, and all bedding should be free of dust and dander, which can hinder sleep with allergies and breathing problems.

Sorry Fido and Fluffy, no more sleeping on the bed!

And, you may also be able to ease the symptoms of your idiopathic RLS with massage, warm baths, and either hot or cold packs, depending on what works best for you.

Other remedies which your doctor can help you with are:

  • Iron supplementation or adding additional iron-rich foods to your diet.
  • Dopamine agonist to improve dopamine production.
  • Dopaminergic agents to improve dopamine production.
  • Benzodiazepines, which are sedative medications such as Xanax or Klonopin.
  • Painkillers, such as aspirin or Ibuprofen.

Tracking Your Progress

Now that you have an idea of how to improve your symptoms, you can start tracking your results and verifying that things are working, which will show up on your sleep tracker numbers.

For instance, using Biostrap’s Sleep Score as an example, you can measure the quality of your sleep sessions over a 3 to 30-day period, over which such factors as deep sleep percentage, total awake time, time taken to fall asleep, HRV, and SP02 are measured.

Since each of these measures begins with a value of 20 that is reduced whenever it is off, your overall average will show you how much or little your RLS is affecting your sleep.

For example, let’s say that for most of the month, your HRV is doing fine at 20, but you then have a few nights where it drops to, say, 17. Clearly, this means that on those nights, your heart rate was showing more activity in your sleep, which means you likely experienced less deep, delta, or “slow-wave” sleep.

Now, you can also look at other factors which may have influenced your sleep that night. Did you stay up too late worrying about a work problem? Was the weather warmer, which made sleeping more difficult those nights?

Whatever the reason, having these numbers available makes it easy to figure out just what it is, and to avoid repeating it in the future.


Nothing can ruin a good night’s sleep like an episode of RLS, and nothing can cause your RLS symptoms to flair-up like not sleeping well can.

However, this 2-headed monster can be tamed, although it takes some discipline and understanding on your part of the cause and effect of your symptoms.

By tracking your sleep score and using it to measure a few key biomarkers, you can better ensure that measures you are taking to improve your sleep are reducing the incidents of your RLS. This in turn will lead to a better quality of sleep, as well as better overall health and wellbeing.

Reading time: 5 min

What has 500 million neurons and can affect your mood, decisions and behavior? Your brain. Not the brain in your head, though, your second brain – the one located in your gut, better known as your enteric nervous system.

What Some People Won’t Do for Science

Study of the microbiology of our innards began as early as 1680 with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who one day decided to compare the bacteria in his mouth with that in his feces. He found a “striking difference” in microbes from each site, then extended his study to other people. Leeuwenhoek found distinct differences in the microbes of healthy people versus those who were diseased.

Enteric Nervous System

The enteric nervous system is the portion of our nervous system that stretches across our digestive system (as opposed to your central nervous system or autonomic nervous system). It’s known as a “second brain” because has its own reflexes, independent of  the brain or spinal cord.

Pioneer researcher Michael D. Gershon, MD, explains, “The enteric nervous system is the only part of the peripheral nervous system that is capable of mediating reflex behavior in the absence of input from the brain or spinal cord.”


The enteric nervous system is a system of neurons – five hundred million of them – that regulate the gastrointestinal tract..

Three kinds of neurons are found in the enteric nervous system: efferent neurons, afferent neurons, and interneurons,

The entire lining of our gastrointestinal system,  from our esophagus to our rectum, is wallpapered with these neurons. (So when someone trash talks that your “brains are in your butt” well, they kinda are.)

How Independent is Independent?

Even when the vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function.  This proves that it operates independently of the brain and spinal cord. They do, however, communicate with and influence one another.

What does it do?

Our bodies move waste through the small intestine the same way an earthworm walks or a snake swallows a pig: the constriction and relaxation of muscles. This process is called peristalsis. In humans this undulating movement pushes waste forward through the small intestine like fans doing the wave at a stadium.

The function if the digestive system has long been known to convert food to energy and waste, through a combination of movement and chemical process. It turns out, however, that this system fuels far more subtle functions.

Your Mood

It turns out that the second brain, and the work it oversees in your gut is deeply tied to mood.

Neurotransmitters send signals to the brain that regulate your mood. The development of drugs to impact these neurotransmitters explosively changed treatment for mental illness. The treatment for depression changed drastically in the 1990s with the advent of Prozac and the other drugs that regulated these neurotransmitters. Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and memory among other functions. Prozac and other SSRIs (serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors) allow more serotonin to circulate, improving mood and alleviating depression.

Serotonin, it turns out, is manufactured in large quantities in the gut. Your second brain produces serotonin and other neurotransmitters such as dopamine that move throughout your GI tract and your bloodstream.

It was Gershon, author of  The Second Brain who first discovered that serotonin worked as a neurotransmitter in the gut. This discovery  was, in his words, “viewed by the scientific world as outrageous.”

As the link between the second brain and mood has been studied, the significance of the connection increases. Meditation is known to increases dopamine. This production affects your mood, which in turn affects production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Neuro researcher Elisabeth Perreau-Linck discovered that mood and serotonin production might be a two-way street: changes in mood can increase serotonin production.

The rich get richer! The happier you are the more serotonin your body produces, and the more serotonin in your brain the happier you are, and so on.

This opens up research frontiers on new interventions for anxiety and depression.

Gut Feelings and the Biosphere

The Human Microbiome is a new frontier in medical research.

Microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct:

  • Microbiota is the collection of microorganisms living on the surface and inside our body. Each human microbiota has trillions of microbial cells, mostly bacteria in the gut.
  • Microbiome is the entire collection of genes within microbiota

The microbiome of every person is complex and distinct.

A Tale of Two Genomes?

Humans have two genomes, the one inherited from our parents, and our microbiome, which is acquired.

Humans have about 22,000 genes in our entire genome, compared to 3 to 5 million genes in the human gut microbiome. The genetics of these microbes are vastly diverse compared to those found on our 23 chromosomes.

We humans are 99.9% genetically similar to other humans. But the microbiomes of our hands and guts can differ by 80-90%. For this reason, our gut microbiome is also called our forgotten organ.

Why Does it Matter?

The specificity of our individual biomes open immense opportunities for deeply personalized medicine

Microbial colonization begins immediately at birth. Although influenced by a variety of stimuli, namely, diet, physical activity, travel, illness, hormonal cycles and therapies, the microbiome is practically stable in healthy adults. This suggests that the microbiome plays a role in the maintenance of a healthy state in adulthood.


Our gut biome is impacted by our very birth. This discovery has led to debate whether health disparities between babies born via C sections versus vaginal birth is linked to the sterile environment of the surgical birth, and the lack of exposure to the vaginal microbiome.

The relation between microbes and we human hosts is complex. Its composition is impacted by

  • Aging
  • Environment
  • Diet
  • Activity
  • Pathology
  • Disease

We can change the biome intentionally or inadvertently through a variety of factors.

  • changes in diet
  • prebiotics – indigestible substance spurs growth of “good” bacteria in the gut
  • antimicrobial-based intervention
  • probiotics – microorganism with live bacteria
  • fecal microbiota transplantation

Microbial imbalances are linked to disease both within the intestines (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome or colorectal cancer) and outside the intestines (allergies, asthma, or heart diseases).

Stress or disease causes random changes in bio gut. Alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, environmental challenges, and autoimmune disorders each can trigger microbiome imbalances. Researchers hope to predict specific changes, or develop new treatments by changing the bionome.

New research brings us novel strategies to predict, diagnosis, monitor, treat or cure disease, for ex., probiotics to treat neurological disorders. Other studies have addressed gut bacteria and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, depression and rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatments might include probiotics or transplant. This would be a highly personalized form of medicine due to the immense variability of microbiome from person to person.

Our brain and this second brain impact each other. The enteric nervous system is so complex, so discrete, that it was discovered far later than other more widely known parts of the central nervous system. For 100 years after its discovery, however, it was thought simply to control the movement (innervation) of our digestive tract, that is, simply moving food from point A to point B.

The stunning discovery, however, that housed within this system is a genetically complex, diverse, and individualistic bionome which controls what we do and how we feel, has opened to new areas of research and understanding, with infinite potential for innovative new treatments.

As one NIH study concluded: “There is huge potential for manipulating the microbiota to sustain, improve, or restore the microbiota in at risk or diseased individuals.” We don’t need two brains to figure out that’s a good thing.

Reading time: 5 min

Body temperature plays an important role in well-being. Getting too warm can signify a fever, while getting too cold can cause bodily systems to shut down. This balance is also important for sleep: if your body isn’t at the right temperature before bed, you may be too uncomfortable to dip into a peaceful slumber.

Learn how to sleep better by optimizing your environments for sleep. Knowing the best temperature for sleep (and creating a bedroom that meets that standard) is one of the best sleep hacks out there.

Here’s what experts have to say about the ideal temperature for restful sleep.

The Best Temperature for Sleep

Being too warm can cause restlessness, and being too cold can lead to muscle contractions and blood vessel constriction, all of which create insomnia. So how should you set your thermostat to ensure the best sleep possible?

According to The National Sleep Foundation, a cool room around 65 degrees Fahrenheit provides the best sleep for most people. However, the average body temperature can vary depending on your age and overall health.

Babies and toddlers, for example, need the room to be between 65 and 70 degrees to sleep well. Women of different ages and even during different times of the month might need more variations, such as a slightly colder than average room, as hormonal changes — for example ovulation — can elevate their normal body temperature.

Body Temperature and Sleep

Your body temperature directly influences your ability to sleep. Why? Because body temperature decreases in response to going to bed. “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down,” Stanford University’s H. Craig Heller, PhD told WebMD.

The deepest phase of sleep, also known as slow-wave deep sleep or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, occurs in correlation with a drop in brain and core temperatures.This is why decreased body temperature leads to drowsiness, and increased body temperature makes us feel more alert (like when we’re exercising).

It’s also why the right bedroom temperature is so important. When you wake up during the night due to uncomfortable conditions, you decrease the amount of NREM and REM sleep your body receives. We need NREM sleep for whole-body restoration, brain detoxification, and REM sleep is crucial for learning and memory consolidation.

The Role of Sleep Disorders and Other Conditions

Natural changes in body temperature are referred to as thermoregulation, according to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus. He points out that thermoregulation is part of the circadian rhythm, the 24-hour sleep cycle that keeps us awake during the day and resting when the sun goes down.

However, temperature regulation can be influenced by other factors, such as illness, medications, menopause, pregnancy, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. These can greatly affect both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and deep sleep. Experiencing these circumstances can cause frequent waking throughout the night, lowering sleep quality and reducing your ability to perform well in everyday life.

But, according to Breus, better sleep can be achieved even when faced with hormone disturbances or sleep disorders. In fact, making a few changes to your environment and routine can help reset your internal thermostat to an ideal sleeping temperature.

Sleep Tips for Better Rest

Now that you understand how the body responds to temperature, you can work toward creating the optimal environment for a good night’s sleep. If you’re constantly hitting snooze when the alarm goes off, it might be time to consider how you can adjust your bedroom surroundings to achieve the rest your body needs.

Adjusting for Climate

No one wants to wake up with night sweats, yet setting the air conditioner to its lowest level can make the room too cold for comfort. If you’re someone who prefers the cold side of the pillow, you know how important it is to avoid overheating during the night.

One way to find a happy medium is to use a fan, which can make a room up to 10 degrees cooler. Using this method reduces energy costs and prevents you from getting too warm throughout the evening.

The most important thing to remember is that comfort is key. Think of your bedroom as a cave — it should be cool, dark, and most of all, quiet.

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Bedding and Mattresses

Your bedding is another important aspect of your sleep environment. For example, memory foam pillows and mattresses tend to trap heat and make you feel warmer, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper. One idea is to opt for moisture-wicking sheets that keep you cool during sleep. Cotton sheets tend to be breathable, and some pillows are made with cooling materials that promote airflow.

On the other hand you can opt for a gel mattress or a gel mattress mat to place over your memory foam mattress.
If you share a bed with someone else, a larger bed can prevent the transfer of body heat throughout the night, thereby reducing overheating.

These simple changes, in combination with maintaining a cool room, can help you maintain an optimal temperature and sleep better throughout the night.

Sleep Habits and Routines

Regulating your body temperature may seem difficult during warmer months, especially if you tend to wake up feeling too warm. One effective — and seemingly counterintuitive — method is to take a warm bath or shower 60-90 minutes before bedtime.

A warm bath positions your body for a cool down once you step out of the bathroom. This kickstarts the cooling cycle that makes your body feel drowsy before bedtime, helping you fall and stay asleep.

Doing this every night can get your body into a routine so that it associates a shower in the evening with the onset of drowsiness. Similarly, drinking a warm cup of tea can warm your body and promote the cooling process so that you feel sleepy before bedtime.

The Best Temperature for Sleep

Finding the ideal sleeping temperature for your body is an important factor for a good night’s sleep. However, there are several more puzzle pieces at play when it comes to creating the ideal sleep environment. Climate, bedding, and nighttime routines all contribute to when you fall asleep — and how well you rest throughout the night.

Taking control of these matters by learning more about your sleep patterns, can ensure that you don’t miss out on a restorative night of sleep. Your quality of sleep is directly affected by your body temperature, bed room environment, and night-time routine, so taking actions to optimize them is important for your health, longevity, and happiness.

How do you know if your sleep routine and bedroom environment is helping you sleep better? By measuring the quality of your sleep, of course. With Biostrap’s standard sleep tracking feature, you’ll gain valuable insights into your sleep quality, from the amount of light and deep sleep you get to time spent in bed as well as sleep latency and nocturnal awakenings, and more. In addition to that, the Biostrap Sleep Lab subscription provides even more comprehensive details including circadian rhythm analysis and individualized bed time recommendations.

Sleep is when the body resets, restores, recovers and performs several vital regulatory processes, so once you start sleeping like a pro, you will wake up with the energy and motivation you’ve always wanted.

Reading time: 5 min

Respiratory rate is one of the main vital signs that measure a person’s health. Alongside body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate is an essential measurement for determining well-being. 

Respiratory rate is the rate at which a full breathing cycle occurs, both inhalation and exhalation. While this is something that can be taken over by voluntary control, the majority of respiratory rate is an autonomic process, which occurs as a result of many inputs, including the respiratory center of the brain, which sends physiological sensory information throughout the body.

Age, weight and certain illnesses can all influence a person’s respiration rate. That’s why your normal respiratory rate may differ from the next person’s. If you learn to measure your respiratory rate, you’ll gain a better understanding of what is normal for you.

What Is a Normal Respiratory Rate?

The normal ranges for respiratory rate vary depending on a number of factors. For example, people who regularly practice deep breathing exercises, or those who play woodwind instruments, may take less breaths per minute, whereas people who are less physically fit may take more breaths per minute.

“We don’t really believe in comparing someone to a normal curve,” explains Kevin Longoria, MSc, a clinical exercise physiologist and the Chief Science Officer for Biostrap. “More importantly, we believe in comparing them to themself. We can see what someone’s normal respiratory rate may be and establish a trend. Then, you look at changes in the trend.” This allows you to determine what is a normal respiratory rate and what is abnormal for you as an individual.

In general, an abnormal respiratory rate is when the number of breaths per minute is under 12 or over 25 — but again, this can vary for every individual. A high respiratory rate means that the respiratory system is being overworked when it circulates oxygen through the blood and body. Conditions like asthma or sudden episodes, like an anxiety attack, can increase the number of times a person breathes per minute, resulting in a high respiratory rate.

In contrast, a child’s breathing rate would be different. “The normal respiratory rate changes significantly throughout the first several years of a child’s development,” says Longoria. For example, a baby up to 6-month old will usually have a breathing rate between 30 and 60 breaths per minute. A child between one and five will usually have a breathing rate between 20 and 30. By the time a child is 12, their breathing rate will usually be under 20.

According to Longoria, “abnormally high respiratory rates in children may be a sign of fever, dehydration, or conditions including bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Children may also experience rapid respiratory rates similar to adults due to other medical conditions including acidosis (with diabetes) and asthma.” And these are just a few of the factors that influence respiratory rate.

Factors That Influence Respiratory Rate

There are a number of common conditions that influence a person’s respiratory rate. For example, having anxiety and suffering from panic attacks can result in shallow breathing patterns and an acutely high respiratory rate for a short period of time (also referred to as hyperventilation).

“What’s really important when you look at respiratory rate is understanding autonomic control,” says Longoria. “When we look at the autonomic nervous system, it’s controlling all these voluntary processes like heart rate, respiratory rate, response to exercise, stress hormones, inflammatory processes — essentially things we don’t have to think about.” Factors such as exercise, stress, or changes in heart rate can influence respiratory rate involuntarily.

Shallow breaths or hyperventilation could be caused by the following conditions.

Lung and Airway Diseases

Lung diseases cause reduced oxygen uptake and prevent the lungs from working properly. For example, emphysema, severe/refractory asthma, and chronic bronchitis block a person’s airflow and contribute to an increasing sense of breathlessness.

These diseases are classified under the term Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and chronic cough with and without mucus. COPD is primarily caused by smoking cigarettes but can also be associated with genetic conditions.

When it comes to factors that influence respiratory rate, “smoking is an obvious one,” notes Longoria. “If you’re smoking, then you’re getting more tar buildup and essentially causing what’s called a respiratory restriction.” Tar buildup in the lungs will damage your air sacs (alveoli) where gas diffusion takes place. “If we’re limiting the surface area of our lungs, our body will have to compensate with a higher respiratory rate.”

Having COPD is a risk indicator of cardiac arrest, in which the heart suddenly stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment with a defibrillator. According to Harvard Medical School, more than 13 million Americans have COPD, and it tends to coexist with other conditions, like heart disease. Yet, many people are unaware of COPD.

Anyone who suspects they have COPD can be diagnosed by a spirometry test. This is a simple non-invasive process that evaluates your exhalation to see how well your lungs are working.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are another leading cause of airway obstruction and respiratory irregularities. During non-REM sleep, the part of our sleep cycle in which we spend 80% of the night, it’s normal to breathe slowly and steadily.

Breathing normally increases and decreases through different sleep stages, and the number of breaths a person takes will vary. However, having a sleep disorder can cause irregular sleep patterns and contribute to respiratory abnormalities. One example is sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder where a person stops breathing for as much as several seconds in their sleep. 

Heart Conditions

Heart problems can also affect a person’s respiratory rate. For example, atrial fibrillation (marked by irregular and rapid heart rate) can cause shortness of breath. When your heart beats irregularly due to atrial fibrillation, you may experience a tight chest and shortness of breath because the heart’s electrical signals don’t fire properly.

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Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular fitness is defined as the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen-rich blood to muscles throughout the body. “If you are frequently exercising, you tend to maintain better lung volume, resting lung capacity, and you have more arterial elasticity,” says Longoria. “Per breath, you’re consuming more oxygen than the next guy.” As a result, your respiratory rate will be lower because it will require fewer breaths to consume the same amount of oxygen.

How to Measure Respiratory Rate

Understanding your respiratory rate can make you more familiar with your body and help you monitor changes as you age. Plus, it can ensure that you recognize when it might be time to consult a medical professional about any changes to your body if changes to your respiratory rate occur.

Respiratory rate can be measured through photoplethysmography (PPG) by measuring the baseline shifts that occur with breathing. The baselines move up and down in an oscillatory pattern, which corresponds to the breath cycle.

A way to use PPG to measure is through a wearable that tracks vital biometrics for both sleep and fitness like Biostrap. “Biostrap is the only clinically-validated sensor system out there,” says Longoria. Wearable trackers can measure your oxygen saturation to indicate how much oxygen is pumping through the blood. It also helps you monitor the effectiveness of your workouts to better understand how blood oxygen levels could be increased through exercise, diet, deep breathing, and other healthy lifestyle changes.

Knowing Your Respiratory Rate

Your respiratory rate tells how much oxygen is flowing through your blood, but it also provides deeper clues to your health. For example, an abnormal respiratory rate can shed light on potential sleep disorders, lung disease, and heart conditions. “It’s an extremely important biometric,” Longoria stresses. “But it’s almost more important to know how and when you’re measuring it.”

Respiratory rate helps us understand changes in our own bodies, especially as we age or try out new approaches to fitness. Measuring your respiratory rate with a wearable that measures and tracks vital biometrics for both sleep and fitness can ensure that you’re always in tune with your body and the breath that keeps it alive.

Reading time: 3 min

Oxygen is one of the essential building blocks of life. Without oxygen, the human body can’t function. Oxygen saturation levels are a way of measuring how much oxygen is in the bloodstream. While most healthy individuals don’t need to monitor their oxygen saturation level, people with certain health conditions or athletes looking for peak performance can benefit from tracking oxygen levels.

Here, we’ll explore everything you need to know about your oxygen saturation level.

What Is Oxygen Saturation?

An oxygen saturation level is the measurement for the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. All organs in the human body need oxygen to function. Oxygen saturation refers to the percentage of hemoglobin that is bound to oxygen when in the artery. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that binds oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. 

Since arterial blood is on the way to the capillaries from the left ventricle of the heart, a high amount of oxygen is expected on hemoglobin, typically greater than 95% saturation. This oxygen is what is required for metabolic processes, namely ATP production, which provides the energy necessary for vital functioning of organs. Reduction in oxygen carrying capacity often results in altered or diminished function, which can lead to acute or chronic disorders.

What Is a Normal Oxygen Saturation Level?

Oxygen saturation greater than 95% is considered normal. Values between 90-95% represent a slightly blunted capacity to carry oxygen, and may or may not be indicative of a meaningful deviation from normal. 

However, oxygen saturation below 90% (hypoxemia) is considered low and usually suggests an abnormality in oxygen handling. Oxygen saturation levels are affected by a variety of agents including the amount of oxygen in the air around you, certain respiratory diseases, and nutrient deficiencies. 

How Is Oxygen Saturation Measured?

Oxygen saturation is measured using a pulse oximeter, commonly called a pulse ox. Readings from this type of test are measured as SpO2. You may not recognize the name, but you’re probably familiar with these devices. A pulse oximeter is the tool that doctors and nurses place on your finger, typically when they’re also checking your blood pressure. 

These devices use photoplethysmography (PPG). PPG utilizes red and infrared light exposure through the skin, which absorbs much of the light. Each form of hemoglobin (unbound or bound to oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide) absorbs wavelengths of light differently.

Oxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more infrared light, whereas de-oxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more red light. This helps us determine the amount of oxygenated hemoglobin relative to total hemoglobin which is expressed as a percentage. 

You can attach the pulse oximeter to fingertips, ear lobes, or toes to get a reading. The test has a margin of error of 2%, meaning it’s less accurate than the arterial blood gases (ABG) test, which is a blood test that measures the acidity, or pH, and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide from an artery. Dark nail polish colors and temperature can affect the pulse ox readings. Though it’s not as accurate as the ABG test, it is a non-invasive way to get a quick SpO2 reading.

The devices are affordable and can be purchased for use at home if you’re trying to monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels regularly. The Biostrap Recover Set features a wrist-worn device that utilizes PPG to measure various biometrics, including SpO2, with clinical reliability making it easy to track your oxygen saturation levels while you sleep.

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Stay on Top of Your Health

Low oxygen saturation levels can be a sign of an underlying health condition. The problem may be caused by a chronic condition or by environmental factors including smoking and pollution. The best way to manage your health is to monitor it regularly. 

Biostrap provides all the tools necessary to accurately monitor your oxygen saturation levels right on your phone. While the wrist-worn device captures your SpO2, among other vital biometrics, with the use of advanced machine learning algorithms, the app offers easy-to-understand and actionable insights into weekly, monthly, and yearly trends. Additionally, you can monitor every single point of data collection that occurred throughout the night, which can help you determine potential dips in your SpO2 levels. These may even call for medical consultation with regards to a sleep disturbance such as sleep apnea events.

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Resting Heart Rate can be a strong indicator of overall health and fitness—here are the essentials on why you should measure it and how to lower it. 

For decades, athletes and trainers have tracked Resting Heart Rate (RHR) as an indicator of athletic performance. However, RHR is an important biometric for everyone to track as it is an indicator of overall health.

Resting Heart Rate is a measure of how many times the heart beats per minute (bpm) while at rest. It is often measured while standing, sitting or lying down; however, it is best to track it passively while sleeping, as acute stress can highly influence it. 

What is a Normal Resting Heart Rate?

The average adult will have an RHR between 60-100 beats per minute, while athletes are likely to rest somewhere between 40-60 bpm. And the lower, the better, as RHR indicates the health of the heart leading to overall longevity, lower risk of heart attack, higher energy levels, metabolic efficiency and athletic endurance.

A resting heart rate below 60 bpm is considered “bradycardia”, but may be common, particularly in individuals with good cardiovascular fitness or individuals taking certain medications. Alternatively, this could be a result of problems with the sinoatrial node or damage to the heart as a result of a cardiovascular event or disease.

A resting heart rate over 100 is considered “tachycardia”, which is often correlated with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Increased HR at rest may result in increased work by the heart, as well as indicating an issue with other physiological pathways. If the RHR is closer to 150 bpm or higher, this may be indicative of a condition such as supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT) requiring medical attention.

What Affects Resting Heart Rate?

  1. Regular Exercise: It’s important that whatever the exercise may be, it should increase heart rate for an extended period of time.
  1. Hydration: Staying hydrated helps with blood viscosity and allows the blood to flow through the body more easily, exerting less stress on the heart.
  2. Sleep: During consistent, uninterrupted sleep, the body rests, repairs, and recovers. Poor or inconsistent sleep can be a large contributor to elevated RHR, putting stress on the heart.
  3. Diet.:A balanced diet full of healthy fats, whole foods, good sources of protein and fiber as well low sodium, inflammatory oils and processed foods help keep the arteries clear, leading to lower RHR and less work for the heart.
  4. Stress: Both acute and chronic stress have a significant impact on the heart by increasing RHR. It’s important to incorporate healthy habits and routines to keep stress and anxiety at bay and help maintain a healthy RHR.
  5. Weight: Extra body weight puts stress on the body and heart. 
  6. Room Temperature: The hotter the body temperature, the faster the heart beats. 
  7. Use of Medications: Treatments for asthma, high blood pressure, thyroid and more can cause changes in heart rate and rhythm. 

Why Measure Resting Heart Rate?

As with most biometrics, Resting Heart Rate offers insights into your overall health, indicating general well-being as well as potential health risks which can inform your daily lifestyle choices.

Tracking consistently over time can be beneficial to watch for changes. As previously mentioned, working to lower your RHR is generally beneficial for overall health. This is because the decrease in heart rate reflects increased cardiovascular efficiency and decreased systemic stress. An increase in RHR over time could be an indication of negative cardiovascular changes, and may warrant follow-up testing or lifestyle intervention.

For athletes, knowing your RHR as well as your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) can help dictate heart rate based training zones. Spikes in RHR can indicate when overtraining has occurred and an athlete should take a rest day, something else in a training regiment is amiss, or can even indicate an oncoming cold or illness.

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How to Lower RHR

It’s important to maintain an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise, a balanced diet, regular sleep and hydration. If your RHR is high, these are the first factors to assess. Beyond the basic lifestyle factors, a few other steps can be taken to significantly lower RHR:

  1. Smoking. Regular smoking increases stress on the heart and the cardiovascular system. Cutting back or eliminating this habit altogether may have a positive impact on not only reducing RHR, but on respiratory health and overall well-being as well.
  2. Manage Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight promotes increased metabolic and energy efficiency and decreases strain on the heart; hence lowering RHR.
  3. Meditation and breathwork. Controlled, long, and slow breathing can help regulate your heart rate and over time works to decrease RHR as well. 

Resting Heart Rate is an important measure of overall wellness for not only athletes but for anyone who wants to optimize their lifestyle. At Biostrap, we’re dedicated to putting you in control of your health by measuring biometrics at clinical-grade accuracy, so you can track and improve your performance and well-being better than ever.

Utilizing proprietary red and infrared photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors, Biostrap’s wrist-worn device captures high-integrity biometric measurements, including RHR, which have been successfully compared to gold standard medical devices.

We believe that the circumstances in which relevant biometrics are captured matter as well. Thus, our focus on nocturnal data collection. Sleep is when the body recovers from and adapts to daily stressors, which then dictates your resilience, recovery, and readiness to perform the following day. Measuring nocturnal RHR reflects some of these changes, providing you with the ultimate insight into how your daily choices impact your physical and mental health, and performance.

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There are a number of metrics we can use to get a snapshot of our health and well-being. From blood pressure to heart rate, doctors and researchers are more interested in our physiological data than ever before. 

There is one marker for resilience and well-being that researchers have just begun to utilize over the past two decades. It’s called heart rate variability, or HRV. This metric, once measured primarily in athletes and those with abnormal heart rhythms, has since become a key piece of data for individuals wanting insight into the state of their physiology and nervous system.

So what exactly is heart rate variability? How do we measure it? And what can it tell us about our overall health? Let’s break down the intricacies of this emerging physiological measurement.

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability, or HRV for short, is a measure of the time between each heartbeat. Heart rate by itself is the expression of how many contractions of the heart there are in a given unit of time; however, the rate itself is not constant. There is normal fluctuation of time between heartbeats, in a manner that speeds up and slows down heart rate. Therefore, HRV is a quantifiable measure that assesses these differences. 

Regulated by a fundamental part of our nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), HRV is one of many functions that occurs without us even having to think about it. HRV has been shown to correlate with emotional and physical stress, sleep, and disease making it a common method for assessing the overall physiological state and the rate of adaptation to stressors. 

Generally, the higher the HRV the better, as high stress and poorer health outcomes have been associated with low values of HRV.

How Do We Measure Heart Rate Variability?

HRV can be measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG) or photoplethysmography (PPG). By referencing a common point in the ECG or PPG waveform, the time between each heart beat can be recorded in milliseconds (ms). Collecting each beat-to-beat interval in ms allows us to compute HRV, most commonly reported as rMSSD (root mean square of successive differences). The rMSSD method of calculation takes each interval, squares the interval, takes the overall mean, and then the square root of that mean. More complex measures of HRV, including frequency domain analysis, can be used to get further information out of heart rate patterns and the state of one’s nervous system.

What Is a Normal Heart Rate Variability?

HRV has a large individual component that has yet to be understood clinically, and therefore is more often used to assess changes in health over time. HRV can fluctuate day-to-day based on exposure to stress, sleep quality, diet, exercise, and more. This leads to low repeatability, and therefore makes normative data difficult to collect. In general, younger individuals, males, and more active individuals tend to have higher heart rate variability, but the inter-subject variability tends to be too high to suggest proper normative ranges.

Focusing On Trends

As previously mentioned, HRV is difficult to interpret and generally nonspecific using data from a single spot check. However, since it is a dynamic measure that responds to various lifestyle factors, tracking HRV over time allows for non-invasive insight into changes in health status or efficacy of certain interventions. In general, since higher HRV is preferable, a greater ability to manage stress results in an increased HRV. The results of the studies demonstrating the relationship between stress and HRV suggest that interventions aimed at reducing mental and physical stress could increase HRV and minimize day-to-day fluctuations (coefficient of variation, CV%). The increase in HRV itself will not reduce risk and improve health over the long term, but rather, it reflects positive adaptations in an individual’s physiology.

For example, if we’re incorporating exercise or meditation into our daily routine, HRV should steadily increase. A downward trend, on the other hand, may be indicative of overtraining, poor sleep, illness, bad eating habits, increased exposure to stress, or failure to hydrate.

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What Factors Influence Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability can be influenced by training, lifestyle, and biological factors.

Training factors that influence HRV include the intensity of a workout, exposure to unfamiliar stimuli, training load, and proper balance between rest days and training days. 

Lifestyle factors that influence HRV include diet and nutrition, stress, sleep habits, and alcohol consumption. Leading a healthy lifestyle that focuses on proper diet and physical fitness, while paying attention to mental health, is a valuable means of improving HRV.

Finally, biological factors such as age, gender, genetics, and health conditions can influence HRV as well. As we age, our HRV tends to decline, and men often have higher HRV than women. Genetics and health conditions such as cardiovascular disease are additional factors that may influence our heart’s ability to operate normally.

Should We Focus on Heart Rate Variability?

Measuring heart rate variability is a valuable form of analysis to monitor healthy individuals or to identify those who should seek improvement. The amount of information we get from HRV is making it a popular health data to assess physiological state, overall well-being and stress adaptation. You can track your HRV with clinical reliability with the Biostrap wrist-worn device and keep an eye on your nocturnal HRV as well as weekly, monthly and yearly trends. 

Reading time: 5 min

Do you know your sleeping heart rate, in other words nocturnal heart rate? If not, it might be time to find out. Several clinical studies have shown that resting heart rate is a key indicator of health, wellness, and longevity. Monitoring changes in your resting heart rate over time can also provide meaningful insight into changes in health.

Understanding your nocturnal heart rate is also important for determining your target heart rate zones, which can guide you to peak athletic performance. Here’s everything you need to know about your nocturnal heart rate — and how to improve it.

What Is Resting Heart Rate?

Heart rate is defined as the number of contractions of the heart, expressed in beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate can be measured during activity (active heart rate), but is most often clinically assessed at rest in the absence of extraneous stress and other factors. 

Resting heart rate is utilized to evaluate an individual’s cardiovascular health and function. While most healthy adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 80 bpm, factors such as fitness level, body composition, room temperature, body position, stress, and use of certain medications can affect heart rate. 

‘Low’ Resting Heart Rate

A resting heart rate below 60 bpm is considered “bradycardia”, but may be common in individuals with good cardiovascular fitness or individuals taking certain medications. According to Dr. Jason Wasfy at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “In certain cases, a lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks.” In the case of individuals with good cardiovascular fitness, the stroke volume of the left ventricle is increased, meaning the heart rate may decrease while still maintaining adequate cardiac output.

In other cases, having a low resting heart rate could be indicative of an underlying health concern. According to the American Heart Association, bradycardia can lead to symptoms including lightheadedness, weakness, confusion, fatigue, and diminished exercise performance. Symptomatic bradycardia may indicate that an individual should seek immediate medical advice.

‘High’ Resting Heart Rate

A resting heart rate greater than 100 bpm is considered “tachycardia”, which is often correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases due to chronic additional work placed on the heart. According to Healthline, tachycardia can be caused by anxiety, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, overconsumption of alcohol or caffeine, drug use, or other underlying medical conditions.

The negative effects of a high resting heart rate were demonstrated in a study conducted by Copenhagen University Hospital. This study found a strong correlation between patients with higher resting heart rates (RHR) and risk of death, specifically a 10% increase risk of mortality for every additional 10 bpm.

Nocturnal Heart Rate

Unlike the traditional resting heart rate values obtained in normal clinical practice, nocturnal heart rate is obtained during sleep. It is normal for nocturnal heart rate values to be slightly lower than waking resting heart rate due to minimal factors impacting the value, and therefore represents a more valuable tool for trending over time to gain valuable insight into changes in your health and performance.

Your Heart Rate During Sleep and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most prevalent sleep disorders in the US with greater than 25 million confirmed cases and research suggesting a high prevalence of undiagnosed patients. During an apneic event, individuals experience a partial or complete collapse of their airway depriving them of oxygen for several seconds. In addition to sleep disturbances, this can lead to an acute change in heart rate and oxygen saturation. 

So what are some indications that you may have OSA? Kathleen Davis states that loud snoring, accompanied by restless sleep and daytime fatigue, could indicate the presence of sleep apnea.

According to Medline Plus, this sleep disorder can cause pauses in breathing that can last from a few seconds to several minutes, with a transition back to normal breathing marked by a gasp, snort or choke, which may startle the sleeper (and often their partner awake). These sleep disruptions have been credited for symptoms of daytime tiredness, even after a full night’s sleep, in patients with sleep apnea.

Fatigue and frustration aside, sleep apnea also affects nocturnal heart rate. “When you stop breathing while you sleep, your heart rate drops, and then your involuntary reflexes make you startle into a micro-arousal, which causes your heart rate to accelerate quickly,” says The National Sleep Foundation. In addition to elevated blood pressure, this rapid decrease and increase in heart rate may lead to an irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia.

Irregular Heart Rhythms and Risks

While irregular heartbeats can be caused by a variety of factors, more studies are revealing the direct relationship between cardiac arrhythmias and sleep disorders such as OSA. One of the most common types of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation (AF) is marked by irregular contractions of the upper heart chambers.

According to a clinical study conducted at the University of Ottawa, researchers found that OSA may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation with secondary symptoms including palpitations, lightheadedness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Atrial fibrillation is also associated with stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular conditions. 

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Measuring Heart Rate

Maintaining a healthy cardiorespiratory system is important – but what are some ways you can measure your resting and nocturnal heart rate?

This can be accomplished with the old fashioned method of measuring your pulse rate with your fingertips placed on your wrist – just make sure you’ve had ample time to rest after a stressful event or exercise, and under controlled conditions. While this is cost effective (free) and can be done anywhere, there may be issues associated with reliability and these measurements cannot feasibly be performed during sleep. 

Electrocardiograms (ECG) are another method that are commonly used in clinical practice to measure electrical conductivity of the heart to measure its rate of contractions. While this is a relatively quick and very precise method for measuring heart rate and other important aspects of cardiovascular function, the most reliable form (12-lead ECG) is typically not available for the general population to track consistently over time.

Which brings us to perhaps the best solution for measuring resting and nocturnal heart rate in terms of cost, reliability, and availability- wearable technology. These cost-effective technologies unlock the ability for all to consistently track and monitor their heart rate over time to gain valuable insight into cardiovascular function. However, it is important that consumers seek a wearable technology that has proven accuracy compared to the gold standard ECG devices.

Improving Your Heart Rate

When it comes to improving your heart rate, maintaining a healthy body composition and regularly engaging in physical activity are key. According to Harvard Health Publishing, exercising within target heart rate zones can help to strengthen the heart and improve aerobic capacity. To safely and effectively train with heart rate zones, it is encouraged that individuals first seek clearance from their healthcare provider, and consider training under the guidance of a qualified fitness professional. 

Improve Your Nocturnal Heart Rate, Reduce Your Risks

Nocturnal heart rate is an important metric that helps quantify the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. Tracking your nocturnal heart rate over time and gaining knowledge of how certain behaviors are impacting trends can help develop an individualized lifestyle plan on the journey to optimal health and life performance.

Additionally, tracking heart rate may provide valuable insight or early detection of health conditions such as sleep disorders that can not impact your sleep quality, but may facilitate or exacerbate other health-related issues.

Maintaining positive habits such as consistently engaging in physical activity may help strengthen the body’s most vital muscle- the heart. 

Reading time: 6 min

What do catching a ball, walking up the stairs, and covering your eyes have in common? They’re all ways that the body can react to its environment. Fast reaction time, which measures how long it takes for your body to respond to external forces, is essential for leading a safe, healthy life.

You can strengthen and improve your reaction time through a variety of exercises and lifestyle factors. Whether you’re meditating, kicking a soccer ball, or playing For Honor, these science-backed tips will help you improve reaction time both in the game and in life.

What Is Reaction Time and Why Does It Matter?

The senses are engaged in a variety of different ways. Sometimes, it’s just one sense that’s stimulated, such as when you close your eyes in response to bright light. Other times, multiple senses can be involved at the same time, igniting multiple sensory reactions.

Stimulation of the senses results in a signal, which is sent to the central and peripheral nervous systems. These signals are essentially electrical impulses, or messengers, delivering information to the rest of the body. The message travels through the brain, down the spinal cord, and to the areas of the body that need to respond.

Having a fast reaction time means that your brain and spinal cord are quickly sending messages to your bones, muscles, and joints in order to make appropriate movements.

Protecting the Body From Harm

Reaction time is important because it helps protect the body from potential injury and harm. Let’s say you slip and fall on ice — a fast reaction time could mean the difference between catching yourself and hitting your head. It isn’t just getting into an accident that requires a fast reaction time, however.

Ordinary daily actions are also strengthened and made safer by having a prompt reaction time. Driving, walking, cooking, running, and even doing the laundry are all examples of activities that require a fast reaction time. Without a quick reaction, these seemingly mundane activities can become opportunities for injury.

Aging and Reaction Time

Unfortunately, reaction time naturally decreases with age. This is primarily due to impaired or reduced cognitive functioning. As discussed above, quick engagement of the brain is essential for signaling the body to react to its environment. When the brain isn’t reacting at optimum speed, falls and injury are more likely to occur.

This was demonstrated in a study on older cancer survivors, which sought to determine the relationship between cognitive function, physical mobility, and falls. The study found a direct connection between decreased brain functioning and falling-related injuries.

“As the cognitive processes of recall, orientation, and executive function become more impaired in this population, falls incidence increases, gait speed decreases, and balance becomes more impaired,” says Jennifer Blackwood, the study’s author.

This suggests that falls among older people are directly related to a reduction in simple reaction time. This is especially true for more complicated movements that involve multitasking, increased motor response, and more complex thinking. It also suggests that simple aspects of physical mobility, such as walking, gait speed, cadence, and step length, are all associated with a decline in reaction time. This is why the risk of falling often increases with age: It becomes harder to catch yourself and prevent injury as reaction time slows.

How to Improve Reaction Time With Lifestyle Changes

Unlike reflexes, which aren’t processed by the brain, reaction time can be strengthened and improved through lifestyle changes. Cognitive exercises, meditation and mindfulness, and nutritional supplements are all factors that can boost reaction time in a safe and healthy way.

Cognitive Exercises

First and foremost, increasing reaction time requires that you strengthen the brain. Learning new things and challenging the brain helps strengthen neurons and decrease the brain’s response time.

Using your non-dominant hand to do things you normally do with your dominant hand is one simple, yet effective cognitive exercise. Signing your name or drawing basic figures asks your brain to think in an entirely new way, thereby rewiring neural pathways. Brushing your teeth, eating, pouring a drink, or using the remote are all things you can try with your non-dominant hand.

Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises

Multiple mindfulness exercises have proven to reduce the length of time it takes to react to external forces. Meditation, for example, has the ability to calm the mind while strengthening the brain’s responses. The relationship between meditation and reaction time was explored in a study on 45 young, healthy volunteers. The participants practiced guided meditation for a course of 12 weeks.

The results showed that the meditation had a positive impact on auditory and visual reaction time. In addition to improving reaction time, meditation also increased alertness. Another study on yoga breathwork showed that simple breath awareness in women can improve reaction time and increase one’s ability to pay attention.

Similarly, yoga asanas (physical poses) have been shown to reduce delays in reaction time while improving mobility and mental functioning. Findings from one study showed that yoga had a positive impact on mobility, reaction time and the overall well-being of diabetes patients. Specifically, leg lift variations such as waterfall pose (lying down with the legs lifted in the air), improved body systems associated with reaction time.

Nutrition and Brain Health

It’s clear that proper brain functioning is critical for fast reaction times. Eating a diet that nourishes the brain and spinal cord can help maintain your motor skills and reflexes. Antioxidants, for example, contain polyphenols that protect the brain from the negative, age-related impacts of stress, which can contribute to cognitive decline.

Foods like blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, and pomegranates are a source of this nutrition. Vitamin K, found in broccoli, is another essential nutrient for brain health because it’s directly related to proper brain functioning. Caffeine and reaction time also have a positive relationship. In a study on people who practice tae kwon do, caffeine increased reaction time during combat.

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Athletic Performance, Video Games, and Reaction Time

While some aging-related changes are inevitable, staying physically fit and playing sports can help you maintain quick brain functioning over time. If you’re an athlete, reaction speed is directly tied to high athletic performance. Whether it’s catching the ball, sprinting to the finish line, or kicking the goal, quickness is essential for winning the game.

Think about it: a soccer goalie only has about 0.3 seconds to react during penalty kicks. Quick reaction is essential not only for winning the game, but for being able to play at all.

How to Improve Reaction Time with Sports

Wondering how to improve reaction time? Exercises such as ladder drills, agility drills, and specialized plyometrics can aid in decreasing reaction time. Elite athletes are also turning to digital reaction drills to help the brain process more information in less time. Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors used strobe glasses to help the brain process visual stimuli more quickly and efficiently. Similar to ball drills, these goggles have strobe lights inside, which forces the brain to work through more complicated stimuli than usual.

“Once the lights are off, the brain will be able to process information much faster as there is no more interference. This allows for faster movement and swifter reaction time,” says Dr. Alan Reichow, who helped develop the glasses.

To improve your reaction time for increased athletic performance, a tennis ball is an invaluable tool. A six-sided ball called a reaction ball or bouncy ball can also work. Simply throw the ball against a surface so that it can bounce back at you. This makes your mind think more quickly because you have to catch the ball before it goes elsewhere.

Repeating the same motion over and over is another way to improve your brain’s ability to process information. It helps turn a sports move, such as catching a tennis ball, into an involuntary reflex that the brain doesn’t have to think about before making.

How to Improve Reaction Time With Video Games

While many gamers get slack for staring at their screens all day, most people don’t know just how much their brain is at work. In fact, numerous studies over the past fifteen years have demonstrated that people who play action video games have higher cognitive abilities than people who don’t. This is because action video games, like Counter-Strike, Fortnite, and For Honor, all require a very fast reaction time in order to play. They also require skills associated with reaction time, such as spatial attention, multitasking, and adapting to predetermined rules.

Another study on action games and the Simon Effect showed similar results. The Simon Effect, a conflict in the attention system, is when reaction time slows down as sensory stimulants are moved farther away. The Simon Effect is present in sports where a ball kicked from father away may be harder for a goalie to stop. This study showed that action video games can lessen the negative impact of the stimulus being far away. In other words, playing action games can improve reaction time, regardless of where the stimulus is.

The Importance of Reaction Time for Health and Longevity

A fast reaction time is essential for safe mobility, healthy aging, and peak athletic and gaming performance. Although reaction time naturally slows over time, there are many ways to train the brain to react more quickly. By decreasing the amount of time it takes to react, you can prevent injury and harm, and become more resilient against potential dangers.

Mindfulness exercises like yoga, breathwork, and meditation all play a role in making the mind stronger. Sports like tennis and soccer can also improve reaction time, especially when played repetitively. Whether you’re catching a soccer ball as a goalie or playing your way through a video game, focusing on your reaction time can undoubtedly improve your long-term quality of life.

Reading time: 4 min

What is a gym to you?

For some, this place may be a sanctuary for the fitness devoted:

A pseudo-religious experience where your barbell lift MUST be executed with perfect form. Your rest MUST precisely be 30-second intervals. You MUST run on the treadmill for a minimum of one hour. And don’t you dare try to strike up a conversation with someone plugged into their Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones… lest you receive the death glare.

For others, it’s more of an anthropological adventure. Think about it – when else can you enter a public space where people give each other unspoken, socially accepted permission to be in ridiculous body positions. I can’t think of too many.

Maybe you think that going to the gym is the only way to become truly healthy and improve biometrics like Heart Rate Variability and Oxygen Saturation. But that is far from the truth! You don’t have to sacrifice fun for fit. As a matter of fact…You can have both:

You can train like a ninja!

Yes, you heard me right. Calisthenics is ninja training.

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is bodyweight training. Any movement that ONLY utilizes your bodyweight can technically be considered calisthenics.

According to the Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 21.7% of adults 18 years of age or older met the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Most fitness activities tend to lean toward aerobic or anaerobic exercise. Calisthenics, on the other hand, are a balanced combination of both.

So why should you do calisthenics? Here are a few reasons why:

Become stronger & leaner

It’s fun!

No gym membership costs

No fancy equipment required

Choose WHEN + WHERE to exercise

If you’re like most fitness beginners, you haven’t worked out in ages. And if you’re the type of person who hates learning complex things, you probably avoid the gym like the plague. The beauty of calisthenics is that it’s straight-forward. But don’t let the ‘easy-to-understand’ movements fool you. Calisthenics will kick your butt.

So how should a beginner start calisthenics training?

With the help of Madbarz, we’ve put together the ultimate beginner calisthenics workout plan you can start immediately:

1. MONDAY: No Equipment Day

No Equipment Workout

4 Rounds:

Max Plank (Hold plank for 30 seconds if you’re a complete beginner)

8 Squats

8 Lunges (each leg)

8 Push Ups

8 Laying Down Leg Raises

Max Mountain Climbers (Do 20 each leg if you’re just starting)

8 Pike Push Ups

This routine is the BEST WAY to start calisthenics because it doesn’t require a single equipment. You can do these in your living room, bedroom, office, in the park – wherever! These foundational exercises will help build up your strength and endurance to perform advanced movements in the future. Think of these as your calisthenic building blocks.

2. TUESDAY: Basic Beginner Day

basic beginner
Basic Beginner Workout

4 Rounds:

7 Close Hands Chin Ups

5 Pull Ups

6 Dips

15 Push Ups

5 Leg Raises

9 Jump Squats

15 Australian Pull Ups

This workout introduces you to calisthenic exercises that require some sort of bar to hang from. Pull up bars are cheap & you can easily get one online or pick one up at a sporting goods store. Most of them will fit your door-frame without causing damage. If you’re feeling outdoorsy, find a park near you that has bars or a playground!

3. WEDNESDAY: Rest Day!

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4. THURSDAY: On-The-Go Day

on the go
On-The-Go Workout

4 Rounds:

20 Wide Push Ups

20 Mountain Climbers

60 Seconds of Wall Sit

15 Clap Push Ups

30 Seconds of Superman Hold

30 Squats

60 Seconds of Plank

5. FRIDAY: Fat Removal Day

fat removal
Fat Removal Workout

4 Rounds:

100 Meter Run

5 Dips

45 Seconds of Jumping Jacks

8 Push Ups

30 Seconds of Alternating High Knees

30 Seconds of Mountain Climbers

15 Seconds of Plank


We’re throwing in a beginner’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout because it’ll really boost your cardio & calisthenic stamina. HIIT sessions are also proven to be incredibly effective when it comes to fat loss.

4 Rounds:

15-second sprint (Run as fast as you can!)

45-second walk (Don’t stop in place. Keep walking)

1 Round:

30-second sprint (Run as fast as you can!)

1:30 seconds walk + recovery

4 Rounds:

15-second sprint (Run as fast as you can!)

45-second walk (Don’t stop in place. Keep walking)

1 Round:

30-second sprint (Run as fast as you can!)

1:30 seconds walk + recovery

7. SUNDAY: Rest Day!

Don’t forget to wear your Biostrap and share your calisthenics progress with the Biostrap community! We want to see you transform yourself into the strongest & healthiest version of you.

Reading time: 5 min

My experience as an athlete

As a health coach and fitness trainer and being 53, I place a huge importance on the optimization of my health. I also love to challenge what I call conventional stupidity approach to health, fitness and life. I do things a bit differently than most Triathletes and Marathoners and Personal Trainers. I fundamentally believe we need to rest more, reduce chronic stress, and connect more with what is going on in our bodies.

I use a wide range of subjective measures in relation to my health and fitness. Subjective measures such as how I feel, my energy levels, my bowel movements, my mood, my ability to think and make decisions, and of course how I feel when I am in the gym, the pool, the track or on the bike. Some people place a lot of importance on Objective metrics and numbers and tend to negate the Subjective measures.

I think it is very important to have a good balance between both.

I recently found this to be important when I started looking at biometrics. I was looking at my RHR, O2 Saturation, Respiration and HRV all from a nocturnal measurement lens. I found there was a trend for my HRV to be quite low and I mean low 32, 41, 35, and it did not vary much regardless of if I had had a 5 hr training day or a rest day. It also did not vary based on my RHR, or how I felt. I was very confused. I was worried, I was starting to think something was wrong. There was a huge disconnect between the subjective rating I would give myself for my state and the objective numbers provided by the HRV tool I was using.

So I tried several HRV devices/applications and tools and they all seemed to show the same result. I was desperate for a deeper understanding of what was going on.

My experience with Biostrap

So why is this so important? Well I am a serious AG athlete. Last year I raced in the 70.3 Ironman World Championships and I train about 13 hrs a week and I am serious about my sport. This was important to me. I also feel that recovery is one of the key pillars of health and fitness.

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The last thing I want to do is cause further stress to my body that would impact my ability to recover, ie doing a solid training session when not fully recovered.

I started looking at a system for biometrics that to me appeared to be more focussed on HRV than simple fitness tracking, it also provided the ability to do a 2 minute biometric scan. I decided to give this a trial. It is called Biostrap.

I had been hearing a lot about the fact that nocturnal HRV reading for elite athletes could be not effective due to a phenomenon called “parasympathetic saturation

My understanding is that this has been reported in high level ultra-marathoners, triathletes and endurance athletes that are more susceptible to it in the supine position simply because you’re in a more rested or relaxed state where our heart is not being challenged to overcome gravity, to pump blood upwards and so forth. When you already have a very low RHR lying down makes it even worse.

Andrew Flatt PhD, CSCS

Andrew is a highly qualified practitioner in this field and writes fantastic content around biometrics. Flatt explains in more detail:

“Parasympathetic saturation, the results of would be having decreased heart rate variability despite having a very low resting heart rate, which is counterintuitive because typically, the lower your resting heart rate, the higher your heart rate variability is. There tends to be an inverse relationship there. But what’s happening kind of physiologically is that the acetylcholine receptors on the heart that respond to vagal stimulation, the vagus nerve is going to release acetylcholine which will bind to the muscarinic cholinergic receptors on the heart, and that tends to slow heart rate down”

So after reading all of this one morning before training I decided to conduct a Sitting biometric scan.

“Kiviniemi et al. (2007) provides a very thorough explanation of why HRV might be better measured in a standing position as opposed to seated or supine. Essentially, HRV is susceptible to saturation of the parasympathetic nervous system in subjects with low heart rates”

Yes, this is me at 36-41 RHR.  I got excited maybe I found the reason why my Nocturnal HRV was so low. He further explains:

“Mourout et al (2004) saw decreased HRV in overtrained athletes compared to not overtrained athletes in the supine position. Similar results were found when HRV was measured after 60 degree tilt. The non-OT group always had higher HRV in the standing position and saw greater reactivity to the postural change. Therefore, pick a position and stick to it 100% of the time for your values to be meaningful. Switching positions from day to day will provide skewed data.”

Endurance athletes and athletes with low resting heart rates (yes that’s me) are probably better off measuring HRV in a standing position. We understand that when an elite athlete has a very low RHR then they are likely to be in a state of parasympathetic saturation. Andrew Flatt Explains this as follows:

“This is when vagal HRV markers (e.g., lnRMSSD) are low despite a low resting heart rate. This has to do with excess acetylcholine within the myocardium that maintains inhibitory actions on the SA node, and thus limits the typical arrhythmia observed from respiration. See below”

“There are several potential explanations for the decrease in HRV with increasing parasympathetic effect. If with increasing blood pressure there is higher-frequency vagal discharge and inspiratory suppression is maintained,18 23 then there must be persistent parasympathetic effect during inspiration despite the suppression of vagal nerve discharge. In in vitro preparations, the dose-response curve to acetylcholine has a rapidly rising portion and at higher concentrations is flat,24 25 displaying a simple saturation relationship. High-intensity vagal nerve discharges during expiration may release enough acetylcholine to result in saturation of the parasympathetic effect during expiration. If acetylcholine concentrations during expiration are high enough, the expected decline in acetylcholine concentrations in the region of the sinus node during inspiration may not be enough to significantly diminish the parasympathetic effect. Alternatively, it is possible that with increasing blood pressure, there is loss of phasic respiratory changes in vagal nerve discharges,26 resulting in a loss of phasic effect and a decrease in HRV. It is unclear which mechanism is operative in humans.”


Goldberger, J. J., Challapalli, S., Tung, R., Parker, M. A., & Kadish, A. H. (2001). Relationship of heart rate variability to parasympathetic effect. Circulation, 103(15), 1977-1983.

So if you are using an HRV device, and you have a low RHR  maybe you should do a self check and consider are your Objective numbers from your HRV app lining up with the Subjective measures and, if not, consider using a device that allows you to do a sitting or standing biometric scan.

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